U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau announced blocks for oil and gas exploration were up for auction next year.
"Proposed Lease Sale 227, scheduled to take place in New Orleans on March 20, 2013, will offer all unleased areas in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, offshore Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and could lead to the production of up to nearly a billion barrels of oil and nearly 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas," the Interior Department said in a statement.
The March sale would be the second under the government's five-year Outer Continental Shelf oil and natural gas lease program and the first from that program for the central Gulf of Mexico.
Specifically, the BOEM estimates the lease sale could lead to the production of as much as 890 million barrels of oil and up to 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
A lease sale for acreage in the Western Gulf of Mexico is scheduled Nov. 28 in New Orleans.