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Standards raised for Gulf of Mexico energy structures

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A federal agency has imposed more stringent design standards on offshore oil and gas drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The changes ordered by the U.S. Minerals and Management Service come in response to hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.

The agency is requiring platforms to be higher above water. It's also encouraging the movement of critical equipment to higher decks and outlining methods for finding weak spots on platforms.

Damage to oil and natural gas infrastructure in 2004 and 2005 included the destruction of 123 fixed structures and one floating facility, as well as significant damage to dozens of other structures.

After those hurricanes, the MMS, the American Petroleum Institute and members of the offshore industry collaborated to improve the standards by which Gulf structures are designed and assessed.

API policy adviser Andy Radford says major oil companies already have been modifying their structures and raising them higher above the water as the industry moves farther out into deeper portions of the Gulf.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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