The US Department of the Interior has announced it will offer more than 21 million acres at a lease sale for oil and gas exploration and development, offshore of Texas.

The proposed Lease Sale 233, which is expected to take place in New Orleans in August 2013, will be the third offshore auction under the Obama administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017.

The Interior said the latest sale will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area.

It will include 3,953 blocks, spread across more than 21.1 million acres, located from nine to 250 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from 16 to more than 10,975 feet (5 to 3,346 metres).

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the proposed sale is expected to produce about 116 to 200 million barrels of oil and 538 to 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The sale follows the first two auctions in the current Five Year Program, which includes a 39m acre sale held in March, attracting more than $1.2bn in high bids, and a 20m acre sale held in November 2012, attracting nearly $134m.

Commenting on the lease sale, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the Gulf of Mexico is a cornerstone of America’s energy portfolio.

"This proposed lease sale reflects President Obama’s continued commitment to safely and responsibly develop our domestic energy resources to help create jobs, foster economic opportunities and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil," Jewell added.

"Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the Gulf of Mexico is a cornerstone of America’s energy portfolio."

Land and Minerals Management Acting Assistant Secretary and BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau said: "This proposed sale is another important step to promote responsible domestic energy production through the safe, environmentally sound exploration and development of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf energy resources."

"We are advancing the administration’s goal of continuing to safely increase vital oil and gas production, while encouraging diligent development and a fair return to taxpayers for these valuable public resources that belong to all Americans," Beaudreau added.

The Interior department proceeded with the auction after extensive environmental analysis, public comment and consideration of the best scientific information available.

Image: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Photo courtesy of United States Department of the Interior.