A federal auction for oil and natural gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) drew more participants and money than a year ago, but the Biden administration, under court order to hold the sale, pledged that changes still would be made.

Lease Sale 257, the eighth offshore auction and first in a year, was live streamed from New Orleans by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). 

The sale drew $191 million in high bids for 308 tracts across 15,000-plus unleased blocks. There were 33 companies participating, with bids totaling $198.5 million-plus. By comparison, the November 2020 lease sale generated $121 million in high bids by 23 operators. 

While the auction appeared to go off without a hitch, the Biden administration said it was “continuing its...