The Gulf of Mexico is famous today mainly for the ferocity of its hurricanes. But for anyone in the oil industry, it is also known for the vast array of oil pipelines that criss-cross its stormy waters, and for the large number of pipeline-laying barges which install them. Soon many of these vessels could be steaming to British waters - not to escape the weather, but to cash in on a bonanza of pipe-laying activity which could soon take place offshore northern Europe. The construction of new pipelines off the UK, Norway and Netherlands will, however, present a new range of challenges for pipeline designers and builders. First and foremost is the Piper Alpha platform disaster, which could saddle the UK offshore industry with a Pound 500 million-plus bill for the installation of emergency shutdown valves (ESVs) on existing lines.