Newly sworn in U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has announced that the Department will offer 73 million acres offshore from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for oil and gas exploration and development. The proposed region-wide lease sale is scheduled for August 16, 2017 would include all available unleased areas in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Proposed Lease Sale 249, scheduled to be livestreamed from New Orleans, will be the first offshore sale under the new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022 (Five Year Program). Under this new program, ten region-wide lease sales are scheduled for the Gulf. Two Gulf lease sales will be held each year and include all available blocks in the combined Western, Central, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas.
“Opening more federal lands and waters to oil and gas drilling is a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy independent,” Zinke said. “The Gulf is a vital part of that strategy to spur economic opportunities for industry, states and local communities, to create jobs and home-grown energy and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
The estimated amount of resources projected to be developed as a result of the proposed region-wide lease sale ranges from 0.211 to 1.118 billion barrels of oil and from 0.547 to 4.424 trillion cubic feet of gas. The sale could potentially result in 1.2 to 4.2 percent of the forecasted cumulative outer continental shelf oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the activity (up to 83 percent of future production) of the proposed lease sale is expected to occur in the Central Planning Area.
Lease Sale 249 will include about 13,725 unleased blocks, located from three to 230 miles offshore, in the Gulf’s Western, Central and Eastern planning areas in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115 feet (three to 3,400 meters). Excluded from the lease sale are blocks subject to the Congressional moratorium established by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006; blocks that are adjacent to or beyond the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the area known as the northern portion of the Eastern Gap; and whole blocks and partial blocks within the current boundary of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
The lease sale terms include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region.
BOEM estimates that the U.S. outer continental shelf contains about 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable gas. The Gulf of Mexico outer continental shelf, covering about 160 million acres, has technically recoverable resources of 48.46 billion barrels of oil and 141.76 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Production from all OCS leases provided 550 million barrels of oil and 1.25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in FY2016, accounting for 72 percent of the oil and 27 percent of the natural gas produced on federal lands. Energy production and development of new projects on the U.S. outer continental shelf supported an estimated 492,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs in FY2015 and generated $5.1 billion in total revenue that was distributed to the Federal Treasury, state governments, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and Historic Preservation Fund.
As of March 1, 2017, about 16.9 million acres on the U.S. outer continental shelf are under lease for oil and gas development (3,194 active leases) and 4.6 million of those acres (929 leases) are producing oil and natural gas. More than 97 percent of these leases are in the Gulf of Mexico; about three percent are on the outer continental shelf off California and Alaska.