For several years now, I've been documenting the deepwater dance marathon. This is my name for the continuous push by oil majors into deeper and deeper waters offshore, in search of black gold. An important early step in the multiyear exploration and resource delineation process is to secure offshore leaseholds on which to drill. For that reason, I've been keeping a close eye on bidding rounds in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, conducted by the Minerals Management Service. The results are always illuminating.
In late 2007, we saw the biggest Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale in more than a decade. This was the first time that I became aware of Cobalt International Energy
As we plumbed the depths of the financial crisis, the deepwater dance unsurprisingly dwindled. The March 2009 lease sale brought only $700 million in high bids. Devon Energy
Last year there was a flurry of deepwater discoveries, including BP's
Maersk Oil -- whose recent attempt to snap up some of Devon's choice deepwater assets was pre-empted by existing partners like Petrobras
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