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GOMR Director John Rodi, Secretary Sally Jewel, and BOEM Director Abby Hopper, Image courtesy of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management/Flickr.

The latest U.S.Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease auction has yielded $539 million in high bids, a nearly $300 million drop from last year.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said last Wednesday it received $539.7 million in high bids and $583.2 million in total bids, a significant cut from the $850.8 million in high bids and $1.09 billion in total bids earned during Gulf Lease Sale 231 last March.

The agency received 195 bids from 42 offshore energy companies for 169 tracts that cover about 923,700 combined acres in offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Lease Sale 235 offered 7,788 unleased blocks, covering about 41.2 million acres, located from three to 230 nautical miles offshore in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115 feet.

BOEM estimates the sale could result in the production of 460 to 890 million barrels of oil and 1.9 trillion cubic feet to 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Lease Sale 235 builds on the first six sales held under the Obama administration’s five year outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program.

The program, launched in 2012, has offered  more than 60 million acres for development, awarded 877 leases and pulled in $2.4 billion in bid revenues.

“The Gulf remains a critical component of our nation’s energy portfolio and holds important energy resources that spur economic opportunities for Gulf producing states, creating jobs and home-grown energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.

Following Wednesday’s sale each bid will be evaluated by the BOEM to “ensure the public receives fair market value before a lease is awarded.”

Shell Offshore placed 17 bids, the most bids placed by a single company during the auction, Rigzone said.

Secretary Jewell said that despite low oil prices the lease sale reflects continued upstream interest in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

“While this sale reflects today’s market conditions and industry’s current development strategy, it underscores a steady, continued interest in developing these federal offshore oil and gas resources,” Jewell said.