TotalFinaElf Wins 20 Tracts in Alaska Lease Sale

TotalFinaElf was the biggest spender at a federal oil and gas lease sale on Monday, winning the right to explore 20 tracts in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, according to preliminary results. The company bid aggressively for tracts in a relatively unexplored part of the federal petroleum reserve, considered one of the last frontiers for domestic oil discoveries. TotalFinaElf bid more than $10 million each for two individual tracts, and a total of $52.8 million for its winning bids according to preliminary results released by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The sale was the first for the NPR-A since the Clinton administration in 1999 reopened the reserve on Alaska's western North Slope to oil development. It took place about two weeks after the federal government issued a new report dramatically boosting its estimates for recoverable oil in the 23 million-acre petroleum reserve. The report, issued by the U.S. Geological Survey, pegged the mean estimate of recoverable oil in the reserve at 9.3 billion barrels, more than four times the amount estimated in 1980.

In all, companies submitted high bids of $63.76 million for 60 tracts, according to the BLM's preliminary results. The lease sale area comprised about 3 million acres in the reserve's northeast corner, dividend into 292 tracts, almost all of them offered but not leased in a sale three years ago.