The region-wide lease sale is scheduled to take place on 16 August 2017.

It will include all available unleased areas in federal waters offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

The Department will offer a reduced royalty rate for shallow water leases to boost exploration and production activity under current market conditions.

Under the National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022, Lease Sale 249 will be the first offshore sale.

Lease Sale 249 will cover about 14,220 unleased blocks in the Gulf’s Western, Central and Eastern planning areas in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115ft.

Ten region-wide lease sales are scheduled to be conducted for the Gulf of Mexico under the program.

During the program period, the Department will hold two Gulf lease sales each year. The lease sales will include all available blocks in the combined Western, Central, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas.

The Gulf of Mexico OCS, which covers about 160 million acres, is estimated to have recoverable resources of 550 million barrels of oil and 1.25 trillion cubic feet of gas.   

Secretary Zinke said: "Our Outer Continental Shelf lands offer vast energy development opportunities and we are committed to encouraging increased energy exploration and production in these offshore areas to maintain the Nation’s global dominance in energy production.”

In December last year, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced plans to offer 48 million acres in lease sale for oil and gas exploration and development in Central Gulf of Mexico.

The proposed Lease Sale 247 was the final Gulf offshore sale under the US Administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017.

Image: An offshore rig located in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: courtesy of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)/ U.S. Department of the Interior.