NEW ORLEANS (AP) — High bids from Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC made up more than one-third of the $850.8 million total at Wednesday's federal oil lease sale for the central Gulf of Mexico. It also was the first sale since the government said BP PLC can again secure federal contracts; the company made $41.6 million in high bids.
Freeport-McMoRan's 16 high bids totaled $321.4 million, including the day's biggest — $68.8 million — and six of the 10 highest, according to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The second-highest bidder both for total and single bids was Chevron USA Inc., at $103.3 million and $62.4 million. That bid, announced after bids of $1.2 million, $2.6 million and $32.8 million for a Mississippi Canyon tract about 125 miles south of Dauphin Island, Ala., and about 20 miles from BP PLC Macondo well that blew wild in 2010, drew a chorus of "oohs" from the audience.
BP was the only bidder on a tract a few miles west of that one, getting it for $1.2 million. The company was suspended from new federal business after pleading guilty in November 2012 to criminal charges from a major oil spill in the Gulf two years earlier. The suspension was lifted Friday and BP bid a total of $53.8 million on 31 tracts Wednesday, with high bids on 24.
"As the nation's largest energy investor, BP is committed to the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, where we have been an active player for a quarter century and have a multi-billion dollar investment program underway," spokesman Brett Clanton said in an emailed statement. "BP's participation in today's lease sale not only underscores the importance of the region, but it is also a testament to the vital role BP plays in the American economy and to the country's energy future."
BP's highest bid was $8 million for an Atwater Valley tract about 180 miles south of Biloxi, Miss., and 10 to 15 miles northeast of the day's most hotly contested tract — the one for which Freeport-McMoRan bid $68.8 million. The other five bids included Exxon Mobil Corp.'s $45.5 million.