Alaska North Slope lease sale draws high bids of $54.5 million, richest auction in 21 years

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska's richest state petroleum lease sale in 13 years took in $54.5 million in high bids Wednesday for tracts on the North Slope.

The sale leased 254 tracts covering 524,387 acres of state and Native-owned onshore property on the central North Slope, according to preliminary sale results, the Alaska Dispatch News (http://bit.ly/1qzFs25) reported. The total of the winning bids was the highest since 1993, when companies paid $65.2 million for acreage in the Cook Inlet basin, according to the state Division of Oil and Gas.

Dallas-based Caelus Energy was the busiest bidder, offering $12.8 million on 103 tracts. The company earlier this year acquired Alaska assets of Pioneer Natural Resources Inc.

70 & 148 LLC, a subsidiary of Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas, was high bidder on 80 tracts at a price of $35.8 million. The company offered bids of nearly $6.5 million for individual tracts within the Colville River Delta, which borders the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The Alpine Field, operated by ConocoPhillips, anchors the area.

Division of Oil and Gas director Bill Barron said Colville acreage had not been offered there for leasing in several years. Repsol has successfully drilled nearby exploration wells, Barron said.

"They're seeing results from the bit, and when area comes open in that area, they're latching onto it," he said.

70 & 148 LLC has worked with Repsol on its exploration program.

"They've got an inside knowledge of what's there and why they're excited, and I think you see the results," he said. "When things get warmed up, industry responds in a big way."

Caelus, he said, is taking a broader and "very interesting approach," Barron said, with bids across the North Slope. "They've now secured a fairly significant fairway," he said.

A second Division of Oil and Gas sale for state offshore Beaufort Sea territory garnered $5 million in high bids.

A federal lease sale attracted $658,978.20 for seven tracts in the National Petroleum Reserve.

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