The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has awarded the first three oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico area subject to the US-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement to ExxonMobil Corp., which bid for the blocks during Western Planning Area Sale 233 in August 2013 (OGJ Online, Aug. 28, 2013).
The leases lie in the Alaminos Canyon area, about 170 miles east of Port Isabel, Tex., and will be subject to the terms of the agreement when it becomes effective on July 18. BOEM opened the three sealed bids totaling more than $21.3 million during March’s eastern and central gulf lease sales (OGJ Online, Mar. 19, 2014).
The agreement clarifying development of transboundary resources, signed into law in December, unlocks about 1.5 million additional acres of the US Outer Continental Shelf for exploration and production activities. BOEM estimates the area has as much as 172 million bbl of oil and 304 bcf of natural gas.
“With the agreement now in full force, we can make additional oil and gas along the resource-rich boundary between the United States and Mexico available and we have a clear process by which both governments can provide the necessary oversight to ensure exploration and development activities are conducted safely and responsibly,” said US Sec. of the Interior Sally Jewell.
Companies from the US and Mexico’s Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) will now be able to voluntarily enter into agreements to jointly develop transboundary reservoirs. In the event that consensus cannot be reached, the agreement establishes the process through which US companies and Pemex can individually develop the resources on each side of the border while protecting each nation’s interests and resources.
The agreement also provides for joint inspection teams from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Mexican government to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Blocks within the 1.4-nautical-mile buffer area north of the OCS boundary in the Western Gap, previously deferred and containing 158,584 acres, will become available for development on July 17, and will be available for leasing during western Lease Sale 238 in August (OGJ Online, Apr. 15, 2014).