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December Lease Sale

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  After opening the year with a string of record lows, members of the Louisiana Mineral Board earlier this month oversaw the most successful December energy lease sale the state has seen in 13 years. Overall, the board awarded 38 leases covering about 5,640 acres statewide. Nearly $9 million in bonuses were collected from the winning bidders, bringing to $34 million the total generated by the leases since the current fiscal year began July 1. Technically, the fiscal-year-to-date total is down from the $191 million the board had in its coffers last December, but last year's inflated figure reflects the historic play in the Haynesville Shale area of north Louisiana. In 2007, a better year for comparison, the board had collected only $16 million by December. While this month's sale showed that inland tracts in south Louisiana are on the uptick after months of dormant activity, offshore leases remain unattractive to energy investors. In fact, no offshore leases were up for bid this month. Of the 38 leases that were sold this month, 23 were in south Louisiana parishes. Of the 15 north Louisiana leases, 14 were sold in the area of the Haynesville Shale natural gas formation — in Bienville, Caddo, DeSoto and Sabine parishes. Lease sale prices remain strong in that area, with the 14 Haynesville Shale area leases averaging more than $6,100 an acre, about what prices have been since August. — Jeremy Alford

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