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Despite Federal Enthusiasm, Oil Companies Show Modest Interest In Offshore Sale

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
Wednesday's lease sale was the largest ever in the Gulf -- more than 77 million acres. But companies only expressed slightly more interest than at the previous sale, last August.

The federal government held an auction Wednesday for oil and gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The Trump administration is pushing for an expansion of offshore drilling, and there has been a lot of anticipation around this sale — the largest ever in the Gulf, with 77-million acres up for grabs.


The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) holds Gulf lease sales once or twice a year. More acres are up for auction than ever before. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently called this one a "bellwether" — an indicator of future offshore drilling.

There was a little more interest in this sale compared to last year — but not by much. Last August, companies spent about $121 million on leases. This sale brought in about $124 million.


Mike Celata, who oversees the Gulf lease program for BOEM, isn't discouraged. He says major companies like BP are showing “continued interest” bodes well for the Gulf of Mexico. And added that some newer, smaller companies placed bids, too. “I think all those are positive,” he said.


BOEM has not yet set a date for the next lease sale, but said it would likely be in August of this year.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Foundation for Louisiana, and local listeners.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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