The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has automated the way members of the public and industry nominate lands for possible oil and natural gas development, the agency said Monday.

The new online service, dubbed the National Fluid Lease Sale System, allows expressions of interest (EOIs) to be entered electronically for BLM review and processing.

“EOIs reflect the desire on behalf of the public or industry to see specific lands made available for competitive oil and gas leasing,” BLM said. “Lands included in EOIs are not necessarily available or suitable for oil and gas leasing but are in an early step in the process of determining which lands will be available for lease sales.”

Use of the system is expected to shorten the time required to review and prepare lands for possible sale by BLM standardizing processes, and will increase transparency by allowing the public to track submissions, BLM said. BLM plans to add additional functions to the application to handle parcel management and sale day activities, and said that when fully implemented next year the system will provide centralized management of leasing data.

The launch of the EOI system is BLM’s third effort this year to improve efficiencies in the oil and gas program through automation.

In July, BLM announced that it was moving to a new online system for the submission of oil and gas drilling permits (see Daily GPI, Aug. 1). BLM started implementing the new system in phases, beginning in October 2015. The agency said the new system would help it reduce processing times by 50%, while also increasing efficiency and transparency during the permit review and approval process. According to BLM, the average time it takes to process a permit is currently 220 days, but it expects 90% of permit decisions will be made within 115 days — on permits where BLM is the sole surface management agency — after the new e-filing system is fully functional.

In September, BLM held its first online oil and gas lease sale under new authority from Congress (see Daily GPI, Sept. 23). BLM’s Eastern States Office offered 4,400 acres, covering mostly two national forests in Mississippi and a small amount of acreage on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed land in Kentucky.