BP Awarded $27 Million in Leases for Gulf Oil, Gas Exploration

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National Journal

BP Awarded $27 Million in Leases for Gulf Oil, Gas Exploration

by
Olga Belogolova

BP is officially getting back into deep water exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, the Interior Department announced on Wednesday.

The British energy giant, responsible for the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history last year in the Gulf, won $27 million worth of leases to conduct new oil-and-gas exploration in the Gulf. The awards from the Interior Department came in the first Gulf lease sale since the BP spill last year, with all winning bids bringing $337.6 million into government coffers.

The lease sale, which involved oil and gas rights for tracts in the western Gulf, attracted 241 bids from 20 companies totaling $712 million, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

BP bid a total of $109.9 million on 15 leases and won 11 for $27.4 million, Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reported in a list of sales posted on its website.

The lease sale, which involved oil and gas rights for tracts in the western Gulf, attracted 241 bids from 20 companies totaling $712 million, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said from the site of the sale in New Orleans.

ConocoPhillips made the highest total bids in the lease sale, offering $173.2 million for 97 leases; the company received 75 leases for $157.8 million, according to a list released by Interior on Wednesday afternoon.

BP bid a total of $109.9 million on 15 leases and won 11 for $27.4 million, Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reported.

"This marks a milestone with respect to the greatest overhaul in the America’s history,” Salazar said of the offshore-drilling safety reforms and changes implemented by Interior since the April 2010 explosion of a BP well in the Gulf led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. “We believe we can move forward with oil and gas development.”

Salazar's initial announcement did not include any mention of whether BP was awarded any leases, but the British oil giant had made clear for months that it intended to get back into deepwater exploration in the Gulf as quickly as possible. BP was not excluded from bidding on any leases, much to the chagrin of environmentalists who say the company should be banned from further drilling until last year's spill has been fully cleaned up. 

Former Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich in October defended the Interior’s decision to include BP in the lease sale.

“They don’t have a deeply flawed record offshore,” he said of BP. “We’ve done analyses over time on the relative safety records of offshore operators and they were in close to the top crew.”

“The question is, do you administer the administrative death penalty based on one incident?," Bromwich told reporters. “And we've concluded, I’ve concluded, that's not appropriate in these circumstances."

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