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U.S. opens up more areas in Gulf of Mexico for oil, gas drilling


08:53, March 21, 2013

HOUSTON, March 20 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. government on Wednesday put more than 38 million acres (about 15 million hectares) of tracts in the central Gulf of Mexico up for bid to offshore energy producers, local media reported.

Fifty-two oil and gas companies submitted 407 bids on 320 blocks, with the offers totaling 1.6 billion U.S. dollars, in a lease sale that underscored a revival of oil and gas drilling in the region and affirmed the industry's interest in deeper territory, according to the website of The Houston Chronicle.

Embattled oil giant BP did not bid on new oil-drilling leases made available in Wednesday's auction held in New Orleans, Louisiana, following the Obama administration's decision to block it from receiving new government contracts because of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Tommy Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that conducted the auction, called the event an " extremely successful and an extremely robust sale." "It serves as a reminder that the Gulf of Mexico, and, in particular, the deepwater Gulf, will continue to play a major role in future energy development in the country," Beaudreau said.

Most of the interest appears to be concentrated in the Walker Ridge area of the Gulf, where at least six companies are vying for some 24 tracts. Chevron, the American multinational energy corporation, and Statoil, a Norwegian oil and gas company, recently have announced big promising discoveries there.

The sale's highest bid, 81.8 million U.S. dollars offered by Statoil and another company identified as Samson, was for Walker Ridge block 271. It's estimated the sale could lead to the production of 460 million to 890 million barrels of crude, plus plenty of gas.

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