Planned Gulf lease sale to open 21 million acres for oil, gas drilling

04 24, 2013 by The Times-Picayune

Federal regulators plan to put more than 21 million acres in the western Gulf of Mexico up for bid to offshore energy producers in August, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

The lease sale, tentatively set for Aug. 28 in New Orleans, will include about 3,953 federally owned drilling tracks from nine miles to 250 miles off the coast of Texas. The blocks are in water depths of 16 to more than 10,975 feet, the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which regulates offshore drilling, said in an announcement.

The sale could lead to the production of 116 million to 200 million barrels of oil, and 538 billion o 938 billion cubic feet of gas resources, according to federal regulators. It marks the third under the Obama administration's five-year Outer Continental Shelf lease program.

The most recent auction, which included 39 million acres in the central Gulf, was held in March. Nearly $1.2 billion in high bids were accepted.

In November, the first offering under the five-year plan garnered about $134 million in high bids for 20 million acres. Some of the money will make its way back to Louisiana, where it is now constitutionally required to go to coastal protection and restoration projects. All but $4.6 million of the $133.8 million in winning bids were for drilling tracts located in the deepwater Gulf.

"The Gulf of Mexico is a cornerstone of the United States' energy portfolio," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. "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."