Gulf lease sales will reduce U.S. oil dependence

12 30, 2011 by Fuel Fix

Ten planned lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico will reduce dependence on foreign oil, the U.S. Interior Department said in a draft environmental review.

The sales, planned for 2012 to 2017, will be off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said in the proposed environmental-impact statement released today.

President Barack Obama has set a target of reducing oil imports by a third by 2025. BP Plc’s (BP/) offshore oil spill in 2010, the worst in U.S. waters, caused the administration to postpone lease sales to toughen offshore regulations. Republican presidential candidates including Texas Governor Rick Perry have said Obama isn’t permitting enough drilling to create jobs and reduce imports.

Bureau director Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement today that the release of the draft was “an important step” toward implementing the administration’s offshore-leasing plans.

The analysis covers the western and central parts of the Gulf, which cover more than 95 million acres combined, according to the report.

Five lease sales are planned for each area. Each lease sale in the western Gulf may yield as much as 200 million barrels of oil, while central leases may contain as much as 894 million barrels apiece, according to the draft analysis.

Among new regulatory standards imposed after the BP spill, which poured about 4.9 million barrels of crude into the gulf, are requirements to certify that the well design is appropriate and that shear rams in a blowout preventer can cut pipe to prevent a spill.

The department announced three public hearings on the draft, starting on Jan. 10 in Houston. Sessions are also scheduled for Jan. 11 in New Orleans and Jan. 12 in Spanish Fort, Alabama.

The public has 45 days to submit written comments to the department before release of a final version.