U.S. Announces First Gulf Lease Sale Since Oil Spill
The U.S. Interior Department will hold its first oil and natural-gas lease sale for the Gulf of Mexico since the blowout of BP's Macondo deepwater well caused on of the nation's worst environmental disasters.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the sale will take place Dec. 14 in New Orleans, some 20 months after the blowout that killed 11 rig workers and spilled oil into the Gulf for almost three months.
The 20.6 million-acre area off the coast of Texas includes 3,900 available blocks, located from 9 to about 250 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from 16 to almost 11,000 feet. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which is part of the Interior Department, believes it could yield up to 423 million barrels of oil and 2.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The minimum bid amount for blocks in water depths of 1,312 feet and greater will be increased to $100 per acre from $37.50 per acre in previous sales. BOEMRE said blocks at those depths that sold for less than $100 per acre had historically not been drilled, so the policy was set to discourage companies from buying leases they are unlikely to develop in the short term. Minimum bids for shallower blocks will remain at $25 per acre.
The Interior Department said the lease sale will include environmental stipulations requiring protection of biologically sensitive features, as well as marine mammals and sea turtles. Trained observers will be required to ensure compliance and restrict operations when conditions warrant.
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