The sales of leases on public land were the Biden administration’s first to the oil and gas industry and were viewed as a test of the industry’s appetite for federal acreage with fuel prices soaring.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the sales, received bids on 55% of the nearly 130,000 acres (52,609 hectares) up for grabs, according to a Reuters review of the results on online auction site EnergyNet.
The agency has not yet released official results, which typically include the names of winning bidders.
Nearly a quarter of the leases offered sold at the minimum price of $2 an acre, according to the preliminary results.
More than 90% of the acreage offered was in Wyoming, which accounted for $12.9 million of the winning bids. A smaller sale of leases in Montana and North Dakota brought in $7.2 million, with auctions in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and Nevada making up the balance.
The sale of one parcel in Utah was canceled.
The meager interest from drillers comes as the industry has expressed frustration with the Biden administration’s attempts to rein in fossil fuel development on federal lands.
The sales were effectively compelled by a federal judge’s ruling a year ago that blocked the administration’s pause on new leasing. The Bureau of Land Management also raised the royalty rate drillers must pay for fuel extracted from the leases.
“(The Biden administration is) not providing reasonable access and timely access on a predictable basis to federal lands – both offshore and onshore,” Tom Petrie, chairman of investment bank Petrie Partners, said in an interview. “It is very short-sighted.”