A new government sale of offshore assets in the US Gulf of Mexico area, held by the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), has received 131 bids from 13 offshore energy firms for 116 tracts.
The Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 229 received nearly $134m in high bids for 652,522 acres, out of the 20 million acres that was made available for oil and gas development on the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), offshore of Texas.
Under the sale, the bureau unleased about 3,873 tracts located from nine to 250 miles off the coast, in water depths ranging from 16 to 10,975 feet.
Initiated as part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the latest sale marks the first proposal under the administration’s new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017.
The five-year programme aims to sell more than 75% of the potential offshore areas within the country that are believed to have the highest conventional and recoverable oil and gas resources for exploration and development.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar anticipates that the government’s constant focus on harnessing domestic energy will help the nation improve output and reduce imports, alongside improving local employment.
"At President Obama’s direction, his administration continues to implement a comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy strategy, expanding domestic production, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and supporting jobs," said Salazar.
The new sale, which marks the third Gulf of Mexico sale during the past year, is expected to produce about 116 to 200 million barrels of oil and 538 to 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
Earlier, the bureau held a sale of 21 million acres in December 2011, followed by another 39 million acres in June 2012.
BOEM formulated the terms of the sale, after ensuring stringent measures for environmental protection and safeguarding biologically sensitive features, such as marine mammals and sea turtles during exploration.
The terms also include several incentives that are aimed at encouraging offshore firms to conduct responsible development of the leases.
BOEM director Tommy Beaudreau commented: "This offshore oil and gas lease sale is part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy and supports continued growth in safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production."
Plans are in place to complete Lease Sale 227 on 20 March 2013, which is likely to make 38 million acres available for offshore exploration in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
In 2011, America’s domestic oil production reached its highest level for a decade that significantly brought down the oil imports to less than 50%, while natural gas was at its highest peak ever, according to the Department of the Interior.
Image: US offshore natural gas production wells in the Gulf of Mexico and California. Photo courtesy of US Energy Information Administration.