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US BOEM to offer more than 20M acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration; includes all available unleased areas in Western Gulf

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will offer more than 20 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale that will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area.

Proposed Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 229, scheduled to take place in New Orleans on 28 November 2012, will be the first offshore sale under the Administration’s new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (Five Year Program). (Earlier post.) Announced last month, the Five Year Program makes more than 75% of recoverable energy resources in US waters oceans available for exploration and development.

The sale will include approximately 3,800 blocks, covering roughly 20.5 million acres, located from nine to 250 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from 16 to more than 10,975 feet (5 to 3,346 meters). BOEM estimates the proposed lease sale could result in the production of 116 to 200 million barrels of oil and 538 to 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Earlier this month, BOEM completed a Final Environmental Impact Statement with analysis to support decision-making for this and other Western and Central Gulf of Mexico lease sales scheduled as part of the next Five Year Program.

The proposed terms for the lease sale include a series of measures intended to protect the environment, including stipulations requiring that operators protect biologically sensitive features. The stipulations for marine mammals and sea turtles will require trained observers to ensure compliance and restrict operations when conditions warrant. The terms also include a range of incentives to encourage diligent development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers—including an increased minimum bid for deepwater tracts, escalating rental rates, and tiered durational terms with relatively short base periods followed by additional time under the same lease if the operator drills a well during the initial period.

Last month, BOEM offered over 39 million acres as part of Central Gulf of Mexico Sale 216/222, which attracted $1.7 billion in high bids for more than 2.4 million acres. That followed Western Gulf of Mexico lease sale 218 in December 2011, which offered 21 million acres and attracted $324,971,001 in accepted high bids.

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