Western Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Lease Sale 248, which will offer 23.8 million acres offshore Texas for oil and natural gas exploration and development, will be held Aug. 24 in New Orleans, and will be the first federal offshore oil and gas auction broadcast live on the internet, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
By offering the internet broadcast, BOEM said it expects to deliver "pertinent bid information immediately to a much broader national and international audience. Through this approach, BOEM aims to promote greater government efficiency and transparency, eliminating the need for the public to physically attend the bid reading at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome."
According to BOEM's notice of the lease sale in the Federal Register, "the bid opening at the Superdome facility will not be open to the public. Instead, the bid opening will be available for the public to view in real-time on BOEM's web site at www.boem.gov via video live-streaming beginning at 9 a.m. on the day of the sale...BOEM will also post the results on its web site after bid opening and reading is completed."
That would seem to sidestep concerns about the proposed Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act (HR 5577), which would allow the Department of Interior to conduct offshore oil and natural gas lease sales via the internet (see Daily GPI, July 7). The Obama administration has said that while it supports the overall goals outlined in the bill, it doesn't think a new system can be in place within a stipulated one-year timeframe.
Several recent BOEM and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lease sales have been marred by anti-drilling demonstrations (see Daily GPI, Feb. 12; March 9). In March, a group of protesters attempted to disrupt two GOM lease sales (see Daily GPI, March 23). National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi said that lease sale "teetered on the verge of being a circus."
In January, BLM postponed an oil/gas lease sale in Billings, MT, the third time since November the agency delayed an auction (see Daily GPI, Jan. 19, Dec. 7, 2015; Nov. 17, 2015). Earlier this month, BLM postponed an oil and gas lease sale of Permian Basin property, saying it wanted to provide adequate public notice of the sale, but environmental groups claimed credit for forcing the change (see Daily GPI, July 18).
Lease Sale 248 will include all available unleased areas in the Western GOM Planning Area. It is scheduled to include approximately 4,399 blocks, located from nine to 250 nautical miles offshore, in water depths ranging from 16 to more than 10,975 feet (five to 3,340 meters). BOEM estimates a range of economically recoverable hydrocarbons to be discovered and produced of 116-200 million barrels of oil and 538-938 Bcf of natural gas.
It would be the eleventh offshore sale in the GOM and the final sale for the Western Planning Area, under the Obama administration's Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (see Daily GPI, June 29, 2012). The first ten sales in the five-year program offered more than 60 million acres and netted nearly $3 billion, according to BOEM.
Leases issued from the sale would be the first for which BOEM will accept requests for extended initial periods, and confirm whether the lessee has earned such extension, a duty previously performed by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Terms and conditions for Western Sale 248 are detailed in the Final Notice of Sale information package.