The oil and gas expanded the offshore drill
ing frontier in the Gulf of Mexico.
Already one of the most explored basins in the world, the Gulf of Mexico’s deepest hydrocarbon deposits will be auctioned off later this year, the result of political maneuvering in the waning moments of the last Congress.
This new area will attract interest from companies with deep pockets and lots of patience, according to industry experts.
But it will be years before any new oil and gas discoveries translate into more energy supplies for consumers.
Energy companies focused on future exploration are anxious to lock up this territory 125 miles off the Florida and Alabama coastlines, where the Outer Continental Shelf dives
down to form a broad, flat plain more than a mile below the water’s surface.
This new drill zone - nearly twice the size of New Jersey - represents a compromise between lawmakers who sought to expand domestic oil and natural gas production and others who feared more rigs could lead to oil spills that would threaten the region’s vital coastal economy.
To energy industry veterans, the new deepwater territory is a welcome, if smaller than expected, patch upon which to go prospecting with equipment that can withstand the crushing weight and extreme temperatures of the abyss.
Gulf of Mexico wells off the Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts produce one-third of the nation’s domestic oil and 21 percent of its natural gas, according to the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that oversees ocean energy production.
Discoveries in the ultradeep water of the gulf have been multiplying since the mid-1990s.
Just last year, a production test of a deep well under 7,000 feet confirmed a giant reserve of oil some 175 miles off the Louisiana coast.