LONDON - Britain has seen unprecedented interest in developing North Sea oil and gas fields, with companies applying for a record 224 licenses covering 418 blocks in its latest exploration round, the government said on Wednesday.

Britain's 27th licensing round was launched in February and breaks the record for applications set in the previous round by 37.

"There remains an extraordinary level of interest in North Sea oil and gas, and it is tremendous news for industry and for the UK economy," UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry said.

"The recent Budget was an important step to create a fiscal environment for North Sea development to flourish - providing energy security and jobs," he said.

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