Oil Industry May Get First Post-Katrina Test

HOUSTON (AP) - The petroleum industry has spent vast amounts of time and money since the catastrophic hurricanes of 2005 trying to make sure it's better prepared for the next big blow. It's put in stronger moorings for production platforms, deeper pipelines, larger supplies of backup electricity, water and other supplies.

Now, that "next big blow" could be named Gustav. The deadly storm appears headed for the northern Gulf of Mexico, home to a complex web of platforms, pipelines and refineries in a region that produces roughly 25 percent of the nation's oil and 15 percent of its natural gas.

Projections show Gustav arriving early next week as a Category 3 storm, striking anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Southeast Texas.

Three years ago, as they prepared to fix the Gulf's devastated oil and gas facilities, industry representatives realized standard repairs weren't enough. So the companies that own the platforms, drill the wells and manage the pipelines spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve and strengthen their operations.

Still, as Gustav churns, a question lingers: How will the revamped structures, pipelines and other equipment hold up to a major hurricane?