NEW ORLEANS, March 21 (UPI) -- The focus on leases in the central Gulf of Mexico highlights an investment drive for North American oil, Norwegian energy major Statoil said.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management received more than 400 bids from 47 companies for 320 blocks up for auction in the central Gulf of Mexico. The area for auction covers around 38.6 million acres. The agency estimates the sale could generate as much as 890 million barrels of oil and as much as 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Statoil said it was the highest bidder on 15 of the leases, submitting $81.8 million for Walker Ridge Block 271.
Statoil Senior Vice President for North American exploration Erik Finnstrom said Walker Ridge was a top priority but reflected an overall focus on North America.
"This addition of leases allows us to further build upon our broad-based strategy for exploration in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and further upgrades our core position in this prolific and proven basin," he said in a statement.
Statoil said it aims to drill at least two wells in the Gulf of Mexico in the next year.
BOEM received told bids of $1.6 billion during the lease sale in New Orleans.
U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., introduced legislation this week that would cut federal subsidies for oil companies examining deep waters like those in the Gulf of Mexico.