By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

When Mexico first offered up acreage for oil and gas drilling to foreign players, officials for the country’s National Hydrocarbons Commission broadcast the bid opening process online for all to see.

As the process unfolded, officials placed paperwork from each bidder in clear boxes designated for each block offered. At times, there were moments where the officials on screen weren’t saying much, just carrying out details in the process. That’s when the announcers, who spoke in Spanish with English translators, stepped in to give details such as potential resource estimates and production statistics for each area being made available.

The showing was an impressive example of governmental transparency, something that not even Mexico’s bigger neighbor to the north had carried out—at least not until Aug. 24. That’s when the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) livestreamed its first offshore lease sale for the Gulf of Mexico (GoM).

Like many firsts, the livestream did not go off without any glitches.

The event started at 9 a.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans with sound issues that were fixed quickly only to face another problem—a memory card was full, requiring footage to be deleted and forcing BOEM Director Abigail Ross-Hopper to temporarily pause the program. A few minutes later, the problem appeared to be fixed with Hopper ready to continue at the podium.

“Great and we’re back. Thanks for your patience as we work through these technical difficulties,” she said.

Thankfully, the technical problems did not prevent BOEM from carrying out the task at hand.

“Our goal in livestreaming the sale is to increase transparency and public access by providing the opportunity for anyone anywhere to view our sale-day process with just a few keystrokes,” Hopper said during the event. “BOEM has been holding lease sales for a long time, and we are truly excited to be able to use modern technology to reach a broader audience and share information and save taxpayer money and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Environmental activists’ protests during oil and gas lease sales also played a role in BOEM’s decision to livestream.

In March, about 150 to 200 protesters overran the Superdome in a demonstration against the sale of oil and gas leases in the GoM. At the time, BOEM was holding Lease Sale 241 in the Central Planning Area and Lease Sale 226 in the Eastern Planning Area.

RELATED: GoM Lease Sale Met With Loud Protests, Low Participation

During a conference call with media following the Aug. 24 sale, BOEM GoM Region Director Mike Celata addressed the difficulties and spoke about what the agency learned. BOEM acquired the technology required for the livestream in March.

“We trained and tested, and we felt we were in good position. But with any technical system there are always potential glitches, and you saw one of those today,” Celata said. “But I think we still had a successful sale. Fortunately, the glitch was early enough into the process that we were able to successfully completely read all bids during the process.

Lessons learned? “Maybe another backup system and a few more tests before we go live in the future,” he added.

Technical mishaps aside, the move to livestream was welcomed, and BOEM should be applauded for giving everyone with access to the Internet a chance to see the process unfold live. BOEM said it plans to post a video of the livestream broadcast to its website.

Velda Addison can be reached at