US sets central Gulf sale for March


US regulators will hold a leasing round for acreage in the central Gulf of Mexico next March, the third sale in the heart of the offshore region since the 2010 Macondo disaster.

Sale 231 will be held on 19 March 2014, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said on Friday.

The sales in the central Gulf, which cover deep and shallow acreage off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, are generally a larger event than a western Gulf offering off Texas.

The most recent central Gulf event in March 2013 showcased broad industry interest, with Sale 227 netting $1.2 billion in bonus bids according to the BOEM.

The announcement comes as the region is seeing high levels of deep-water activity as well as a push to revitalise shallow-water fields, a decisive rebound after deep-water drilling was halted and leasing suspended in 2010 in the wake of the explosion and spill at the BP-operated Macondo well.

"The Central Gulf of Mexico is one of the most prospective and productive basins in the world, and this proposed sale continues the Administration’s all-of-the-above strategy to increase safe and responsible domestic energy production," BOEM director Tommy Beaudreau said.

This particular sale will cover 7508 unleased blocks over about 39.4 million acres.

The tracts are three to about 230 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from 9 feet to to more than 11,115 feet.

"BOEM estimates the proposed lease sale could result in the production of 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas," the agency said.

The latest western Gulf event in August saw more lacklustre activity with high bids of only $102.35 million.

The BOEM typically holds one bidding event per area each year.

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