MMS's 5-year OCS leasing plan wins approval

US Interior Sec. Gale Norton has approved the US Minerals Management Service's 5-year program for oil and natural gas lease sales on the Outer Continental Shelf for 2002-07.

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, July 2 -- US Interior Sec. Gale Norton has approved the US Minerals Management Service's 5-year program for oil and natural gas lease sales on the Outer Continental Shelf for 2002-07. The program schedules 20 lease sales in eight OCS planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska.

MMS estimates the new 5-year program will make available resources postulated at 10-21 billion bbl of oil and 40-60 tcf of gas. The first lease sale scheduled under the new program is western Gulf of Mexico Sale 184, slated for Aug. 21 in New Orleans.

MMS Director Johnnie Burton said Norton's approval ended an 18-month process in which the MMS and Interior consulted with coastal states, the general public, the environmental community, and the oil and gas industry.

On Mar. 18, MMS proposed its 2002-07 offshore lease sale schedule, and it closely resembled a preliminary plan the agency announced in October 2001. The schedule does not involve a sale in any area under congressional spending moratoriums or presidential withdrawals (OGJ Online, Mar. 19, 2002).

Oil and gas produced from the OCS currently provides about 25% of total US production, MMS noted, adding that new technology has opened up more areas for offshore drilling in the past decade, with 35 rigs currently exploring in water depths of more than 1,000 ft.

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