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Web Alert: US Government's proposal to expand its Outer Continental Shell for potential oil and gas lease sales

11 January 2018

On 4 January 2018, the US Secretary of the Interior announced the US government’s proposal to make over 90 percent of the total Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) acreage, in federal offshore areas, accessible for future oil/gas exploration and development (full statement can be read here). This follows on from Executive Order 13795 which President Trump issued in April 2017 which outlined an ‘America-First’ Offshore Energy Strategy.

The first of three preliminary proposals, Draft Proposed Programme (DPP) - the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing 2019-2024 which was published this week “allows for consideration of unprecedented increases in access to America’s extensive offshore oil and gas resources”. It has received input from a wide variety of stakeholders in the US including state governments, federal agencies, public interest groups, industry and the public. A copy of the DPP can be accessed here.

Its publication is part of a lengthy procedure in order to eventually develop and finalise a National US OCS Programme. Once a final National OCS Programme has been agreed and approved, this will override the previous 2017-2022 programme, in which 94 percent of the OCS is forbidden for exploration.

The key areas proposed in the DPP are Alaska, the Pacific Region, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Region. The DPP outlines a lease schedule of 47 lease sales in all of the four regions and includes 25 of the 26 planning areas (such as Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Cook Inlet, Northern Carolina, Central California, Washington/Oregon, Central, Western and Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Mid and South Atlantic, North Atlantic and the Straits of Florida). By proposing to open up the OCS for potential oil/gas exploration, it will provide the US with an opportunity to compete with other oil rich nations and for offshore operators and contractors to be involved in the development of its extensive oil/gas resources. However, production from oil/gas exploration and development in the newly available OCS areas is unlikely to take place for at least another decade or more.

Further details can be accessed here.