73 million acres in Gulf of Mexico to be opened for oil and gas development

Newly confirmed U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wasted no time in announcing new plans for development of oil and gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Monday, the Department of the Interior announced a 73-million-acre Gulf of Mexico lease sale scheduled for Aug. 16, 2017, to offer all available areas in federal waters for oil and gas development.

“Opening more federal lands and waters to oil and gas drilling is a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy independent,” Zinke said. “The Gulf is a vital part of that strategy to spur economic opportunities for industry, states, and local communities, to create jobs and home-grown energy and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Proposed Lease Sale 249, scheduled to be livestreamed from New Orleans, will be the first offshore sale under the new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022. Under this new five-year program, 10 region-wide lease sales are scheduled for the Gulf. Two Gulf lease sales will be held each year and include all available blocks in the combined Western, Central, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas.

The estimated amount of resources projected to be developed as a result of the proposed region-wide lease sale ranges from 0.211 to 1.118 billion bbls. of oil and from 0.547 to 4.424 trillion cu. ft. of gas, according to the Interior Department. The Interior Department said the sale could potentially result in 1.2% to 4.2% of the forecasted cumulative OCS oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the activity (up to 83% of future production) of the proposed lease sale is expected to occur in the Central Planning Area.

Lease Sale 249 will include about 13,725 unleased blocks, located from three to 230 miles offshore, in the Gulf’s Western, Central, and Eastern planning areas in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115 feet. Excluded from the lease sale are blocks subject to the Congressional moratorium established by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006; blocks that are adjacent to or beyond the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the area known as the northern portion of the Eastern Gap; and whole blocks and partial blocks within the current boundary of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

“To promote responsible domestic energy production, the proposed terms of this sale have been carefully developed through extensive environmental analysis, public comment, and consideration of the best scientific information available,” said Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). “This will ensure both orderly resource development and protection of the environment.”

There is one final Gulf of Mexico lease sale remaining in the current five-year-leasing program. Scheduled for March 22, Sale 247 will offer acreage in the Central Planning area.

As of March 1, about 16.9 million acres on the U.S. OCS are under lease for oil and gas development (3,194 active leases) and 4.6 million of those acres (929 leases) are producing oil and natural gas, according to Interior Department statistics. More than 97% of these leases are in the Gulf of Mexico; about 3% are on the OCS off California and Alaska.

Lease terms for sale 249 in August are not yet finalized. The proposed notice of sale can be viewed on the BOEM website.

 

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Ashley Herriman

Ashley Herriman is WorkBoat's online editor.

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