Gulf oil find made ahead of lease sale

Nov. 28, 2012 at 8:44 AM

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. energy explorer Noble Energy, one of the first to start work in the Gulf of Mexico, said it uncovered a major oil discovery in the region's deep waters.

Charles Davidson, chairman and chief executive officer at Noble Energy, described a discovery in the Big Bend prospect as a major source of optimism for shareholders.

The company said it encountered about 150 feet of net oil pay after drilling to a depth of 15,989 feet from a Gulf of Mexico platform in 7,200 feet of water.

The discovery comes as investors head to New Orleans for a lease sale for assets in the Gulf of Mexico. Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said it would be "an interesting sale to watch" as it's the first under a five-year lease plan spelled out by U.S. President Barack Obama.

"The level of activity in this sale will be a good indicator of industry's confidence not only in the remaining resources of the western Gulf of Mexico but also in the administration's willingness to allow those resources to be developed in a timely fashion," he said in a statement.

Unleased areas in the western Gulf of Mexico cover about 20 million deep- and shallow-water acres. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates the lease could eventually result in the production of, on average, 150 million barrels of oil and 730 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

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