NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The federal government is offering about 45 million acres for oil and gas leases in the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico at sales on March 23.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says the Central lease sale covers 44.3 million acres off of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, at depths ranging from nine feet to more than 2 miles under water.
The Eastern area offers about 595,500 acres of waterbottom that are at least 125 miles off of eastern Alabama and western Florida.
Low oil prices have limited interest in recent gulf lease sales. The government received 195 bids on 169 tracts in the central area last March, down from 380 a year earlier and more than 500 in previous years. That was the lowest since 129 bids in 1986.
The central region is generally the most active part of the Gulf of Mexico. The western gulf, the next-most-active area, offers a bit more than half as many tracts but generally draws one-quarter the number of bids.
High bids last year in the central gulf totaled about $538.8 million. In 2014, they totaled $850.8 million on 326 tracts. The highest total number of bids was 1,790 in 1997, when the 1,032 high bids totaled $824 million. The record total for high bids was nearly $3.7 billion on 615 tracts in 2008.
The next-largest total for high bids was about $3.5 million on 656 tracts in 1983, the first year that the current regions were used. Before that, sales either were for the entire gulf or for areas off of specific states.
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