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MMS Issues Rule on Floating Offshore Platforms

The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) last Tuesday issued a final rule that streamlines the permitting process for floating platforms, and incorporates industry standards for floating production systems into agency regulations. The rule marks the first time the MMS has addressed floating oil and natural gas facilities separately from fixed platforms.

"Incorporating the industry standards into MMS regulations will save the public the costs of developing separate, and possibly duplicative, government standards, and will streamline procedures for reviewing and approving new offshore floating platforms," the agency said.

The rule, which takes effect Aug. 18, responds to the rapid increase in deepwater exploration and development, and the energy industry's growing dependence on floating facilities to carry out its offshore activities, according to MMS.

In 1993, deepwater areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (water depths greater than 1,000 feet) accounted for approximately 12% of the oil and 2% of the natural gas produced offshore, the agency said. But by the end of 2004, it reported that deepwater areas were responsible for about 62% of the crude oil and 32% of the gas produced offshore.

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