Oil companies bid big bucks for Gulf of Mexico drilling rights

|By:, SA News Editor

Oil and gas companies pledged ~$872M for drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico during today's high-stakes auction that demonstrated plenty of enthusiasm for offshore development in both shallow and deep water.

BP, which had been forced to sit out the last three auctions under a government contract suspension, won 24 of its 31 bids for drilling leases in the central Gulf, including territory near its failed Macondo well.

The highest single bid came from Freeport McMoRan (FCX), which pledged $69M and beat out five other companies for the rights to drill a tract in the Atwater Valley leasing area, home to at least five discoveries.

FCX won 16 of its 17 bids with a $321M price tag, more than three times as much as the next-biggest spender, Chevron (CVX), which scored $103M in high bids; Murphy Oil (MUR) was no. 3 with 16 bids totaling nearly $50M.

Cobalt Energy (CIE) was the most aggressive bidder, winning 44 of 46 offers worth $26M.