Top 4 bids 30 percent of Gulf of Mexico lease sale's $178M

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Oil and gas companies made $178.1 million in high bids for federal leases in the Gulf of Mexico. That's about 28 percent above the last gulf-wide sale in March.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says 29 companies bid on 144 tracts Wednesday.

High bids averaged $1.2 million, up from $939,000 in March.

Regional Director Michael Celata (suh-LAH-tuh) says there's clearly continued interest in deep water.

Spokesman John Filostrat says the four highest bids were in water more than 1,600 meters (about a mile) deep. They added up to $53 million, nearly 30 percent of Wednesday's total.

The highest were Hess Corp.'s $25.9 million and Chevron USA's $11.1 million.

Exxon-Mobil Corp. had 25 high bids for $40.5 million, including the day's third- and fourth-highest, at $8.5 million and $7.5 million.

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