The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Graphically Speaking: Producing Oil on Federal Lands

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 24, 2012

One of the most important things to know about producing oil on federal lands is that it takes time. Lots of it. As this chart developed by API illustrates, it’s up to a decade from the time a lease is won at auction to the first actual production of oil. If you include pre-lease sale studies and evaluation, which have to be done before companies bid on federal leases, that’s a couple more years.

The point here is that the production gains the country is seeing now date to a process that started up to a decade or more ago. You don’t just flip a switch and suddenly oil starts flowing.

This timeline also has implications for future production, given current federal data that show leasing acreage on federal lands at its lowest point since 2001 – declining from 47 million acres in 2008 to 38 million acres in 2011 – and that the number of leases in effect also has declined.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.