Oil and gas lease utilization: Onshore and offshore


August 11, 2011

In March 2011, President Obama commissioned a study to determine how onshore and offshore public lands leased to oil and gas companies are being utilized, as part of a strategy to encourage companies to produce more energy from existing, not new, leases. The report was issued against the backdrop of increasingly contentious debates about U.S. domestic fossil fuels production, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and renewed pressure from both American energy company advocates and environmental advocates.

A 2011 report by the U.S. Department of the Interior, “Oil and Gas Lease Utilization: Onshore and Offshore,” analyzed data provided from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy on the level of oil and gas industry activity on leased land. The Bureau of Land Management oversees all leases of federal land to private companies for the purposes of resource extraction.

The report’s findings include:

  • Approximately 70% of the offshore acreage under lease (located primarily in the Gulf of Mexico) are neither actively producing nor are part of a future production plan. Of the 34 million acres under lease in the Gulf, only 10 million have approved exploration or development plans.
  • Approximately 57% of the onshore acreage under lease (located primarily in Alaska and the western states) are neither actively producing nor are part of a future production plan.
  • Nearly 49 million of 76.2 million total acres of federal land under lease remain inactive.
  • An estimated 11.6 billion barrels of oil and 59.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas sit untapped in the Gulf of Mexico.

The report notes that “there are tens of millions of acres currently idle — that is, not undergoing exploration, development or production.” Additionally, the Department of the Interior offered “substantial” additional land for potential oil and gas development in 2009 and 2010 for which the government did not receive bids.

Tags: fossil fuels, disasters, pollution


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