In the time of social distancing, Alaska holds its first online oil and gas lease sale

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Cook Inlet oil platforms are visible from shore near Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

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Cook Inlet oil platforms are visible from shore near Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday that it’s holding its first ever online auction of oil and gas leases.

It’s a new way of doing business for the department in the time of social distancing. Since the state started lease sales in the 1960s, DNR said, it has relied on in-person auctions and sealed bids. Now, the department has hired a Texas-based company called EnergyNet Services to use its internet platform.

In a statement, DNR Commissioner Corri Feige said the online sale allows the state to offer the leases to broader markets. Also, she said, the department is working to find new ways to operate more safely and efficiently due to concerns about the coronavirus.

DNR’s plan to move to online bidding started before the pandemic, said department spokesman Dan Saddler. But, he said, the health-care emergency has underscored another advantage of the transition. Saddler said the department plans to continue with the online process in the future.

“Our new relationship with EnergyNet will bring our leasing program into the 21st century, while making our outstanding hydrocarbon opportunities more visible and attractive in a global marketplace,” Feige said.

The inaugural online auction closes June 11. As part of the annual Cook Inlet and Alaska Peninsula lease sales, the state is offering 1,729 tracts of land that cover nearly 8 million acres, an area about the size of Maryland.

Those interested in the leases can register online, select tracts from interactive maps and submit their bids, according to DNR. Then, they receive online invoices.