WASHINGTON, July 18 (UPI) -- More than 20 million acres near the Mexican border in the Gulf of Mexico go on the auction block for energy exploration in August, the U.S. government said.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released details about the sixth lease under a five-year lease program ending in 2017, announcing 21.6 million acres near the maritime border with Mexico go on the auction block Aug. 20 in New Orleans.
The first five sales brought in more than $2.3 billion for U.S. taxpayers, BOEM said.
The unleased acreage up for auction is estimated to hold as much as 200 million barrels of oil and 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
The federal government estimates the Outer Continental Shelf produced about 18 percent of the oil and 5 percent of the natural gas produced in the country last year.
"As one of the most productive basins in the world, the Gulf of Mexico is a critical component of the nation's domestic energy portfolio," BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank said in a Thursday statement.
The transboundary area was opened by congressional agreement in December. Through it, U.S. companies agree voluntarily to develop the area jointly with Mexican energy company Petroleos Mexicanos.