Auction of Oil Drilling Tracts in Gulf Draws Tepid Interest

An oil platform off Louisiana. Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico slowed considerably after the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010. CreditChris Carmichael for The New York Times

HOUSTON — In a setback to Trump administration efforts to increase offshore oil production, the industry responded with only modest interest on Wednesday in a federal auction covering a record 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

Companies bid on only 1 percent of the acreage, and the winning bids yielded a mere $125 million for the government.

The results reflected broad uncertainty among oil executives that global oil prices can remain at current levels over $60 a barrel, as well as a general preference for drilling in onshore shale fields that require smaller investments and are less risky.

Administration officials characterized the auction as a success since major oil companies — Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and Total — had placed over 150 bids, and the yield tally was $3 million above a regional lease sale in August.

But independent analysts said the results were modest.

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