Oil and gas companies, enjoying increased cashflow as a result of strong energy prices, submitted a higher number of bids in the latest Western Gulf of Mexico lease sale, the U.S. Minerals Management Service said. The sale drew 266 bids from 52 companies on 226 exploration blocks, up from 177 bids from 41 companies on 153 blocks in the previous Western Gulf of Mexico lease sale, held in August last year. A total of 3,789 blocks covering 20.6 million acres offshore Texas and Louisiana were offered in the latest lease sale. The blocks are at distances of nine to 200 miles offshore and water depths range from eight meters to more than 3,000 meters. Acreage in shallow water proved most popular, with bids received on 129 blocks in depths up to 200 meters. Bids were also received on 81 blocks in depths of over 800 meters and on 16 blocks in intermediate depths of 200 to 800 meters.