Texas Boasts Texas-Size Lease Sale

Despite $15 oil and the whopping $810 million federal Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale three weeks ago, oil and gas prospectors had enough shekels remaining to make the Texas General Land Office sale April 7 the largest high bids sale in 22 years and the seventh largest in the history of the 150-plus-year old agency.

The sale raised nearly $34.7 million in apparent high bids for the right to explore and produce on state lands. Most bids were for Gulf of Mexico tracts. Several were offshore Galveston Island where natural gas production is the probable goal of bidders, the Land Office said. "There have been recent declines in the price of oil, but the price of natural gas is holding up just fine," said Gary Mauro, Texas land commissioner. "These sale results clearly show that the Texas oil and gas industry is optimistic about its future. We had eight bids over $1 million, with the highest being $1.6 million on one tract." That bid came from Cockrell Oil &amp Gas, Houston, for 995 acres in the offshore Mustang Island, Kleberg County area in far South Texas.

CNG Producing submitted the highest per acre bid - $1,817 an acre - in the history of Texas state lease sales for 720 acres in the same area. CNG had apparent winning bids totalling $3,742,876 on six tracts in the Mustang Island area. Samedan Oil, Midland, bid $1.54 million for 1,736 acres in the western reaches of Galveston Bay and appears to have taken nine other leases in the West Bay area with bids aggregating nearly $6.1 million.

The $34.7 million brought in Tuesday continued an upward trend of the last two years. Last October's sale brought in $23.6 million, and last April's sale brought in $26.6 million. Sales are held twice a year. From 1985 to 1994, totals were between $6 million and $22 million. Amounts began trending upward from 1995 to 1996 when totals rose to the $30 to $40 million range and continued in 1996-97 with totals reaching $50.2 million. The best years ever were in the late 1970s and early 1980s when skyrocketing energy prices pushed lease sales up to about $95 million. Last April's $26.6 million was the best for a single lease sale since October 1984 when $27.8 million in high bids was offered.

Joe Fisher, Houston

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