The UK is offering 27 new onshore oil and gas blocks, including those for shale gas exploration.
The Oil & Gas Authority said it had received 95 applications as part the 14th onshore licensing round.
It added the new blocks – around 2,700 square kilometres of countryside – would be formally offered later this year, with a further 132 blocks awarded after a detailed environmental assessment.
The announcement comes just days after the UK Government unveiled new rules to fast-track fracking applications.
UK Energy Minister Lord Bourne said: “As part of our long term plan to build a more resilient economy, create jobs and deliver secure energy supplies, we continue to back our onshore oil and gas industry and the safe development of shale gas in the UK.
“Keeping the lights on and powering the economy is not negotiable and these industries will play a key part in providing secure and reliable energy to UK homes and businesses for decades to come. It’s important we press on and get shale moving, while maintaining strong environmental controls.”
He added investment in shale could reach £33 billion and support 64,000 jobs.
However Greenpeace believes the news is “the starting gun to the fight for the future of our countryside”.
Daisy Sands, Head of UK Energy and Climate added: “Hundreds of battles will spring up to defend rural landscapes from the pollution, noise and drilling rigs that come with fracking.
“The government is backing the destructive fracking industry with tax breaks and stifling local opposition. This government is ignoring sound economic and environmental evidence to back clean renewable energy which is a better bet for jobs, investment and the climate.”