KENAI -- Oil companies bid more than $1.2 million for 30 tracts in the state's annual Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale. The companies apparently are focusing on natural gas prospects.
''Most of the bids were offshore north of Nikiski,'' said Jim Hansen, lease sale manager for the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas. ''I'm sure it's gas, because if there was a large oil pool there, it probably would have been found by now. But you never know.''
Escopeta Production-Alaska Inc., which lists offices in Anchorage and Houston, Texas, was the biggest buyer Wednesday, with winning bids totaling more than $776,000 for 14 tracts. All 14 are just offshore in Cook Inlet and just north of Nikiski. Escopeta now controls most of that area.
Paul Craig of Anchorage bid nearly $39,000 for two tracts, including one straddling the shoreline near the Escopeta tracts.
Forest Oil Corp., which bought Forcenergy Inc. last year and recently struck oil with its first well from the new Osprey Platform, bid $30,355 to lease one tract in the Middle Ground Shoal area in eastern Cook Inlet about 10 miles north of Nikiski, Hansen said.
Unocal bid $29,664 for one tract near the end of East End Road by Homer, Hansen said.
Richard Wagner, who previously has participated in North Slope and Cook Inlet sales, bid $125,000 for seven tracts he won. Saddleback Resources LLC bid nearly $215,000 for five tracts.
Hansen said the level of interest was about what he expected.
''It's about on par with previous sales,'' he said. ''We expect these Cook Inlet sales are going to be chugging on at about $1 million each. The last sale was just under $1 million. The year before was $1.4 million.''
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