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Central Gulf lease sale attracts 593 bids

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said it has received nearly 600 bids on 454 blocks in advance of the US' first lease sale in the prolific central Gulf of Mexico since the 2010 Macondo blowout and oil spill.

A total of 48 companies submitted 593 bids for the highly anticipated Central Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 216/222, which will take place on Wednesday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

By comparison, the most recent Central Gulf lease sale - which took place on March 2010, about a month before the fatal Macondo incident that prompted a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling - attracted 642 bids on 468 offshore tracts.

Industry advocacy group American Petroleum Institute welcomed the upcoming lease sale but said President Barack Obama's proposed five-year offshore leasing plan through 2017 remains "inadequate".

The plan "would limit offshore development to where it historically has always been: parts of the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Alaska. It would restrict opportunities when it should be expanding them. It would not help prepare us well for our energy future," API’s upstream director, Erik Milito, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will oversee the lease sale on Wednesday. The department has offered up 7434 blocks on the Outer Continental Shelf for development. The blocks are located between three and more than 230 miles off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Upstream senior correspondent Anthony Guegel will be tweeting live from the Superdome on Wednesday. Follow him @upstream_wag.