BP was the high bidder on 24 exploration blocks in the Gulf of Mexico for about $42 million, according to the Interior Department.

London-based BP was barred from bidding on new acreage until it reached an agreement on March 13 with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA in 2012  barred the oil company from new federal government business including exploration leases after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster killed 11 people and led to the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

“They have been in the penalty box,” said Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Company in New York told the New York Times. “They have been working hard to lift the sanctions, and they immediately turned that into something positive.”

Under BP’s agreement with the EPA, the oil company will retain an independent auditor for five years to conduct annual reviews and report back to the government on compliance with the agreement.

The EPA can also “take corrective action if it believes BP breaches the agreement,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Since the 2010 disaster, BP’s production in the Gulf of Mexico has plummeted about 60 percent to about 190,000 barrels a day because of a combination of sales of oil fields to raise money to pay damages from the spill — now estimated by the company at $42.7 billion — and an inability to drill because of the moratorium,” the New York Times reported.

At Wednesday’s auction, about 50 companies competed for 326 blocks covering 1.7 million acres off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the Times said.

BP was fifth in terms of the amount of money its winning bids will cost.

Freeport-McMoRan Oil and Gas was the leader with high bids valued at over $320 million, and Shell and Chevron each submitted winning bids worth more than those of BP.

“BP is very pleased at the prospect of adding to our leading leasehold position in this key U.S. offshore region,” said Brett Clanton, a BP spokesman in Houston told the New York Times. He said BP had bid on 31 leases, winning 24.


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