Cuadrilla and INEOS were among the companies to be awarded the licences which cover large swathes of the region stretching from the North Yorkshrie coast to Doncaster.
The licences include a cluster for Cuadrilla east of Kirby Misperton, in Ryedale, where Third Energy is currently asking for permission to carry out fracking.
The area sits on a geological formation known as the Cleveland Basin thought to be rich in shale gas deposits that could be targeted with fracking.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “The award of these licences gives Cuadrilla a leading position in each of the three most prospective shale gas exploration areas in Northern England, namely Lancashire Bowland, Gainsborough in South Yorkshire and Cleveland in East Yorkshire.
“The massive potential for the natural gas to be extracted in these areas could help to drive the Northern Powerhouse by securing the low carbon energy future of the UK as well as creating investment and local jobs across the region.”
Licences granted to INEOS include two for shale exploration that cover parts of the North York Moors National Park.
MPs this week agreed controversial regulations that will allow fracking to take place in national parks although well-heads will have to be located outside their boundaries.
Jim Ratcliffe, INEOS chairman, said: “We are delighted with today’s announcement. The UK government has demonstrated it is determined to move forward with this exciting new industry.
“This is the start of a shale gas revolution that will transform manufacturing in the UK. INEOS has the skills to safely extract the gas and we have already committed to both fully consult and to share the rewards with the local communities.”
The PEDL licences awarded by the Government give companies rights to explore in given areas of the country.
However, any move to use fracking or other mining methods to extract oil or gas would require a host of other permissions.
The awarding of the licences was nevertheless greeted with dismay by anti-fracking campaigners.
Chris Redston, from the Frack Free Ryedale campaign group, said: “This is a very black day for North Yorkshire, which has now been officially designated a Fracking Sacrifice Zone in the government’s relentless but misguided dash for gas.
“If local people haven’t been worried about fracking up to now because it’s not happening on their doorstep, then it is time for them to wake up and smell the methane. Fracking is now on everyone’s doorstep.”
Fracking involves the pumping of water, sand and some chemicals at high pressure into rock formations deep underground to release trapped oil and gas that could not be tapped by more conventional means.
The Government has strenuously backed the creation of a UK fracking industry, arguing it will create jobs and be a valuable domestic source of energy in the coming years.
Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said: “Last month we set out the vital role gas will play in the UK’s transition to a low-carbon future.
“The licences offered today move us a step closer - driving forwards this industry which will provide secure, home-grown energy to hard-working families and businesses for decades to come.”