The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is set to offer around 45 million acres for oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico in two lease sales in March.
The move is part of President Obama’s proposal to expand domestic energy production.
BOEM director Abigail Ross Hopper said: "As an important component of the US energy portfolio, the Gulf of Mexico holds vast energy resources that can continue to spur economic opportunities for Gulf producing states, as well as further reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
"These Gulf of Mexico lease sales reflect this administration’s commitment to facilitate the orderly development of offshore energy resources, while protecting the human, marine and coastal environments, and ensuring a fair return to American taxpayers."
The two leases, Central Planning Area Lease Sale 241 and Eastern Planning Area Lease Sale 226, will be held consecutively in New Orleans, Louisiana.
They mark the ninth and tenth offshore auctions under the US Administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-17.
The first eight sales in the five year programme offered more than 60 million acres for development and attracted $3bn in bids.
Sale 241 includes about 8,349 unleased blocks. They lie in water depths ranging from nine to over 11,115ft and cover 44.3 million acres, located from three to 230nm offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Sale 226 has been proposed for the eastern planning area, encompassing 162 whole or partial unleased blocks covering about 595,475 acres in the area.
The blocks are located at least 125 statute miles offshore in water depths ranging from 2,657ft to 10,213ft.
In September 2015, BOEM offered contracts for oil and gas exploration and development across 40 million acres in central and eastern Gulf of Mexico planning areas, offshore Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Image: The two offshore leases will be held consecutively in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo: courtesy of think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.