The Department of the Interior will offer more than 40 million acres for oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico in consecutive March lease sales, the U.S. agency stated in a press release.
“These lease sales underscore the President’s commitment to create jobs through the safe and responsible exploration and development of the Nation’s domestic energy resources,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, in the release. “The five year program reflects this Administration’s determination to facilitate the orderly development while protecting the human, marine and coastal environments and ensuring a fair return to American taxpayers.”
The two lease sales, Lease Sale 231 in the Central Planning Area and Lease Sale 225 in the Eastern Planning Area, will be held in New Orleans March 19.
The first Lease Sale, 231, includes about 7,507 of unleased blocks, spanning more than 39.6 million acres, situated about 3 to 230 miles offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in water depths ranging from 9 to 11,115 feet. Around 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could potentially be produced as a result of the proposed sale, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates.
Sale 225 is the first sale offering acreage in the Eastern Planning Area since March 2008, and is the first of only two lease sales proposed for that area. More than 134 whole or partial unleased blocks spanning about 465,000 acres in the Eastern Planning Area will be up for grabs. This area, situated about 125 miles offshore in water depths ranging from 2,657 feet to 10,213 feet, is south of eastern Alabama and western Florida. Sale 225 could potentially result in 71 million barrels of oil and 162 billion cubic feet of natural gas in production, BOEM estimates.
These auctions will be the fourth and fifth offshore sales under the Obama Administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Programs for 2012-2017. Thus far, the first three sales in the five year program offered more than 79 million acres for development and garnered $1.4 billion in high bids.
“As a critical component of the nation’s energy portfolio, the Gulf holds vital energy resources that can continue to generate jobs and spur economic opportunities for Gulf producing states as well as further reduce the Nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” said BOEM Director Beaudreau.
BOEM will also open any pending bids submitted in Western Planning Area Sale 233 for blocks situated within 3 miles of the maritime and continental shelf boundary with Mexico, the agency stated. If leases are awarded, they are subject to the terms of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement, approved by Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and signed by the president.
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