WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- More than 40 million acres in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico will go on the auction block in March for exploration and development, the U.S. government said.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the March 18 sale in New Orleans will mark the seventh under a five-year lease program ending in 2017. BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said more than 41.2 million acres are for sale in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
"As one of the most productive basins in the world, the Gulf of Mexico is an important part of [President Barack Obama's] energy strategy," she said in a statement.
Output from the Gulf of Mexico has remained resilient, though many oil and gas companies are cutting their exploration and production budgets as oil prices continue to trade in a bear market.
Chevron last month said it made what it described as a "significant" oil discovery at the Anchor prospect in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, its second such discovery in less than a year. In early December, the company announced crude oil production started at the Jack/St. Malo project in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, one of the region's largest. The first development stage should yield as much as 94,000 barrels of oil per day.
BOEM said the Gulf of Mexico contributes about 18 percent of total U.S. oil production and 5 percent of total gas production.
The first six lease sales from in $2.4 billion in high bids.