The US administration’s sale of 9 million-acre of oil and gas leases in the Central Gulf of Mexico, has attracted $1.2bn in high bids for tracts on the US Outer Continental Shelf offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

In the sale held by the Department of the Interior, a total of 52 offshore energy companies submitted 407 bids on 320 tracts, spanning over 1,722,191.42 acres, while the sum of all bids received a total of $1.5bn.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who opened the leases, said the sale reflects strong, continuing industry interest in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Developing public energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico is good for the Gulf’s economy, and reflects President Obama’s commitment to expand oil and natural gas production safely and responsibly, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and supporting American energy jobs," Salazar added.

A joint venture of Statoil and Samson Offshore held the top bid of $81.8m for a single lease, reported Bloomberg.

Conducted by Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Lease Sale 227, involved 7,299 blocks, covering nearly 38.6 million acres.

The blocks are located from three to about 230 nautical miles offshore, in water depths from nine to more than 11,115ft.

BOEM said the area for sale is estimated to produce about 890 million barrels of oil, and 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.