Oil companies bid for 127 exploration blocks Wednesday at the Minerals Management Service's Beaufort Sea lease sale. The sale was the most successful Beaufort Sea lease sale in 17 years.
The bids, totaling $46.73 million, covered about 618,751 acres, or about 6.58% of the total acreage offered by the agency off Alaska's Arctic coast.
The agency offered 1,794 whole and partial blocks encompassing about 9.4 million acres.
"This is the best sale we've had in the Alaska region since 1988 with regard to the number of tracks that were bid upon," said MMS Alaska Regional Director John Coll. "I would say that personally, it exceeded my expectations."
The last Beaufort Sea lease sale took place in September 2003, when oil companies bid on 34 out of 1,806 blocks, according to MMS data. The largest Beaufort sale ever was held in 1982, when companies bid on 121 out of 338 blocks for an amount exceeding $2 billion.
Coll said that the relatively small number of blocks bid upon in relation to blocks offered is due to the region's large size and isolation.
"We're in remote areas, so companies will not buy up everything – definitely not," said Coll. "It's not as easy a place as the Gulf of Mexico, with all the infrastructure."