WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Friday said it would offer the largest oil and gas offshore auction in U.S. history on March 21 for areas in federal waters off the Gulf Coast, less than a year after a similar sale yielded little corporate interest.
The Interior Department said it would offer 77.3 million acres (31.3 mln hectares) offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for oil and gas development, an auction that includes all available unleased areas in the Gulf of Mexico. The blocks are from 3 to 231 miles (5 to 372 km) offshore and in waters 9 to 11,115 feet (3 to 3,390 meters) deep.
The department announced the auction in October, without an exact date. The sale is in support of President Donald Trump’s so-called America First Offshore Energy Strategy, which aims to reduce energy imports and boost jobs in the industry.
But offshore drilling is expensive in a time of relatively low oil prices held in check partially by plentiful supplies of onshore petroleum, which is cheaper to produce.
A lease sale in August last year got a tepid response from oil companies. The offer of 73 million acres received $121.14 million in high bids for 90 tracts covering 508,096 acres (205,619 hectares).
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokesman John Filostrat has said that Interior hopes for “a healthy number of bids, more so than we did in August.”
Reporting by Timothy GardnerEditing by Marguerita Choy