Ban lifted, BP bids $42 million to win Gulf oil leases in US auction

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LONDON — Just days after the United States lifted a ban on new oil and gas leases for BP, the company took full advantage of the opportunity. In an auction held in New Orleans on Wednesday, BP was the high bidder on 24 exploration blocks for about $42 million, according to the Interior Department.

BP was not the most aggressive bidder, but winning so many leases so soon after being cleared to seek new drilling rights was an important milestone in the company’s quest to recover from the blowout in 2010 that killed 11 people and led to the spilling of millions of barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

“They have been in the penalty box,” said Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York. “They have been working hard to lift the sanctions, and they immediately turned that into something positive.”

BP, which is based in London, reached an agreement on March 13 with the Environmental Protection Agency, which in 2012 had barred the company from new federal government business like exploration leases.

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