The US Department of the Interior (DoI) has unveiled a proposal to allow oil and gas companies to explore nearly all of the country’s offshore resources in an attempt to ensure energy security.

The draft proposed programme (DPP) seeks to replace the existing framework, which prohibits exploration of around 94% of the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Under the ‘National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Programme for 2019-24’, the government proposes to open approximately 90% of the total OCS acreage and more than 98% of undiscovered resources in federal offshore areas for future exploration and development.

US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said: “Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands, and parks.”

Under the DPP, the administration intends to award 47 potential leases in 25 of the 26 planning areas.

“This decision could bring unprecedented access to America’s extensive offshore oil and gas resources and allows us to better compete with other oil-rich nations.”

The proposed sales comprise 19 off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and nine in the Atlantic Region.

US DoI energy policy counsellor Vincent DeVito said: “By proposing to open up nearly the entire OCS for potential oil and gas exploration, the US can advance the goal of moving from aspiring for energy independence to attaining energy dominance.

“This decision could bring unprecedented access to America’s extensive offshore oil and gas resources and allows us to better compete with other oil-rich nations.”

The draft policy is currently open for public comments.

Preparation and approval of a final National OCS Programme for 2019-24 involves multiple stages.

Some of the proposed sales are expected to be from regions where there have been no leases since the 1980s.