The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced it would offer approximately 45m acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development in two March lease sales, RigZone reported. The blocks are located some 125 statute miles offshore in water depths ranging from almost 2,700ft to more than 10,000ft. The move is part of President Obama’s proposal to expand domestic energy production, according to Offshore Technology. They mark the ninth and tenth offshore auctions under the US Administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-17.

The two leases, Central Planning Area Lease Sale 241 and Eastern Planning Area Lease Sale 226, will be held consecutively in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sale 241 includes about 8,349 unleased blocks. They lie in water depths ranging from nine to over 11,000ft and cover 44.3m acres, located up to 230nm offshore Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Sale 226 has been proposed for the eastern planning area, encompassing 162 whole or partial unleased blocks covering more than 500,000 acres in the area.

The Gulf of Mexico is an important component of the US energy portfolio, said BOEM Director, Abigail Ross Hopper, in a press statement. The Gulf “holds vast energy resources that can continue to spur economic opportunities for Gulf producing states as well as further reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”

Previously, in September 2015, BOEM had offered contracts for oil and gas exploration and development across 41m acres in central and eastern Gulf of Mexico planning areas, offshore Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.