Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 251 generated over $178 million in high bids for 144 tracts covering 801,000 acres in federal waters of the U.S. Gulf, the Department of the Interior announced today. A total of 29 companies participated in the sale, submitting approximately $203 million in bids.

“Today’s lease sale is yet another step our nation has taken to achieve economic security and energy dominance,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. “The results from the lease sale will help secure well paying offshore jobs for rig and platform workers, support staff onshore, and related industry jobs, while generating much-needed revenue to fund everything from conservation to infrastructure.”

Lease Sale 251, livestreamed from New Orleans, was the third offshore sale held under the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (2017-2022 OCS Program). Under this program, 10 regionwide lease sales are scheduled for the Gulf, where resource potential and industry interest are high, and oil and gas infrastructure is well established. 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 Gulf of Mexico is a long established oil and gas province and many of the blocks offered at today’s sale have been offered many times before,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kate MacGregor. “Today’s results demonstrate a steady interest as serious innovation and engineering continues to unlock new energy resources deep below the seabed.”

“While not a barn burner, Lease Sale 251 tops the previous Gulf sale in terms of increased participation, increased competition for offerings, and bid amounts," National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) President Randall Luthi said in a statement. "In addition, bidding activity demonstrates both continued interest in deepwater tracts and renewed interest in shallow-water tracts.

“The operating environment in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico shows tangible signs of improvement pointing to an industry that is poised to shift into high gear," Luthi continued. "Oil prices are higher, revisions to overly burdensome regulations are in the works, rig rates and supply chain prices are more competitive, and companies have improved the efficiency of their operations. The results of today’s sale reaffirm the paradoxical state of an offshore energy industry in slow recovery mode. The future is bright, but shifting out of reverse takes time.”

In January, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced a draft proposed program for a new National OCS Program for 2019-2024. The 60-day public comment period for the draft ended on March 9. After considering all public comments, BOEM will develop and publish a proposed program for public comment later this year, followed by the proposed final program expected in 2019.

BOEM will continue to implement the 2017-2022 OCS Program until the new National OCS Program is approved.

Lease Sale 251 included 14,622 unleased blocks, located from three to 231 miles offshore, in the Gulf’s Western, Central and Eastern Planning Areas in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115' (three to 3,400 meters). Excluded from the lease sale are: (1) blocks subject to the congressional moratorium under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006; (2) 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 (3) whole blocks and partial blocks within the boundaries of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

“BOEM continues to advance responsible offshore energy development, while protecting the environment,” Acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank said in a statement. “This lease sale represents another step forward in the administration’s comprehensive effort to secure our nation’s energy future.”

All terms and conditions for Sale 251 were detailed in the Final Notice of Sale information package, which is available at:

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.