The US Government‘s sale of a nine million-acre of oil and gas leases in the central Gulf of Mexico has attracted $1.2bn in high bids for tracts on the US Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

In the latest sale held by the Department of the Interior, a total of 52 offshore energy companies submitted 407 bids on 320 tracts, spanning 1,722,191.42 acres, taking the sum of all bids received to a total of $1.5bn.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who opened the leases, said the sale reflects strong, continuing industry interest in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Developing public energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico is good for the Gulf’s economy, and reflects President Obama’s commitment to expand oil and natural gas production safely and responsibly, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and supporting American energy jobs," Salazar added.

A joint venture of Statoil and Samson Offshore held the top bid of $81.8m for a single lease, reported Bloomberg.

Conducted by the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Lease Sale 227 announced in February 2013, involved 7,299 blocks, covering nearly 38.6 million acres.

The blocks are located from three to about 230 nautical miles offshore, in water depths from nine to more than 11,115 feet (three to 3,400 metres). BOEM said the area for sale is estimated to produce about 890 million barrels of oil, and 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The sale is part of the administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017and is the second under the new Five Year Program, and the first of its five scheduled central Gulf of Mexico lease sales.

"Ken Salazar, who opened the leases, said the sale reflects strong, continuing industry interest in the Gulf of Mexico."

The Obama administration made more than 39 million acres available in June 2012, followed by another 20 million acres in November 2012 through the Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 229, when it received 131 bids accruing nearly $134m in high bids for 652,522 acres.

BOEM director and acting assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management P. Beaudreau said: "The central Gulf of Mexico is one of the cornerstones of the United States’ domestic energy portfolio, and is central to meeting the nation’s energy needs and fuelling the economy."

BOEM has raised its minimum bid requirement in deepwater to $100 per acre, from $37.50 in previous central lease sales.

Image: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Photo courtesy of Department of the Interior.