HOUSTON, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Department of the Interior said Thursday that it has finalized plans to auction off more than 38 million acres in the central Gulf of Mexico to offshore energy producers for oil and gas drilling.
The lease sale, to be held on March 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana, will offer all unleased areas in the central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, offshore Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, according to FOX Business.
The lease sale could lead to the production of up to nearly a billion barrels of oil and nearly 113 billion cubic meters of natural gas, said the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The central Gulf of Mexico was the site of the 2010 BP oil spill. Drilling in that area was effected by the incident, but drilling activities there have been rebounding, and companies said they are expecting the boom will continue in deepwater areas.
The most recent lease sale in the central Gulf, held last June, brought in 1.7 billion U.S. dollars in high bids for more than 2.4 million acres (971,227 hectares).
Under a five-year lease plan, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold 12 Gulf of Mexico lease sales before June 30, 2017.