* Statoil wins tract with highest bid of $81.7 million
* Shell submits most high bids
* BP sits out, banned from new govt contracts
By Kristen Hays
HOUSTON, March 20 Norway's Statoil
submitted the highest single bid on Wednesday in the latest
federal auction of drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico, while
Royal Dutch Shell put in the top sum of high bids.
The sale drew $1.2 billion in high bids for tracts in the
central Gulf. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said 52
companies submitted 407 bids on 320 tracts.
BP Plc, the largest leaseholder in the Gulf, did not
participate in Wednesday's sale. Last November the U.S.
government banned BP from new federal contracts over integrity
issues in the aftermath of its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf.
The suspension bars BP from new contracts until the company
can demonstrate that it can meet federal business standards.
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a statement on Wednesday
that given the uncertainty of the suspension and debarment of
some BP businesses, the company decided not to participate in
Wednesday's lease sale.
"We hope we can reach a reasonable resolution with
regulators" so BP "can once again enter into new contracts with
the U.S. government," Morrell said.
Statoil bid $81.9 million on a tract more than 200 miles
south of the Louisiana coastline in an area known as Walker
Ridge, which has been attracting more interest from producers
after appraisal wells show potentially huge oil finds.
This week Anadarko Petroleum Corp said its
Shenandoah-2 appraisal well in the Walker Ridge area showed that
the reservoir could hold double or triple its initial estimates,
according to analysts.
Statoil's high bid secured the tract it was after. The
company said it was awarded 14 other leases in Wednesday's sale.
Shell, the top oil producer in the Gulf, submitted the most
high bids - 38 - for $139.8 million, according to the Bureau of
Ocean Energy Management. Anadarko was second with 30 bids for
Other participants included Exxon Mobil Corp,
ConocoPhillips and BHP Billiton.