Feds roll out details on Western Gulf lease sale

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Thursday released final details for its planned Aug. 20 sale of oil and gas drilling rights in the western Gulf of Mexico, including its plan to auction off acreage near the United States’ maritime border with Mexico.

Some 21.6 million acres will be up for grabs during the sale, though oil and gas companies’ interest is likely to be concentrated on just a few hot areas.

The sale will include blocks within a 1.4 nautical mile buffer along the border between the United States and Mexico, an area that had been barred from development to allow time for the two countries to ratify a treaty governing oil and gas activities in the region.

“With expiration of this treaty provision, the United States has decided to lease the whole and partial blocks in the 1.4-nautical mile buffer area,” the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said in its sale package.

This sale is set to be the sixth auction of offshore drilling rights in the administration’s five-year plan for leasing the outer continental shelf from 2012 to 2017.

The ocean energy bureau has already taken the first steps toward assembling the next leasing blueprint, which would schedule sales through late 2022.

Read more: Feds launch planning for future offshore lease sales

Western Gulf sales tend to draw relatively slim interest, in part because the region is dominated by shallow-water offerings.

Most of the territory — 2,573 of the 4,026 available blocks — is in water depths less than 1,300 feet. Just a dozen companies participated in the last western Gulf auction in August 2013, with the government ultimately selling 53 lease blocks for about $102 million.

Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of the ocean energy bureau, said that the auction comes after “extensive environmental analysis, public input and consideration of the best scientific information available.”