Twelve firms, including Cuadrilla and Ineos, have been given the exclusive right to explore for oil and gas, including fracking.
The exploration sites include areas in the Midlands and the North East.
However, whether exploration can actually go ahead is subject to local planning consent.
The announcement comes after Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said last week that planning decisions on fracking would be speeded up.
The blocks of land, which are typically 100 sq-km, include areas near Lincoln, Nottingham, Sheffield and Preston.
A second group of 132 further blocks could be granted following a consultation.
Read the full BBC article here