P.M. BRIEFING : Platform Blast Raises Oil Prices

<i> From Times wire services </i>

World crude oil prices surged today after a blast on a North Sea platform shut off a quarter of the British supply.

None of the 227 workers on board was hurt in the explosion, which followed a gas leak on the Shell Expro platform Cormorant Alpha about 100 nautical miles from land. But the Tuesday night incident sent crude oil in Europe a dollar higher to $20 a barrel, the highest in 20 months, extending a rally that had already moved prices up in many nations.

Nearly half a million barrels of crude a day are usually pumped on a pipeline running through a damaged leg of Cormorant Alpha from several fields including part of the giant Brent reservoir.