$1M Prize Awarded For Oil Cleanup Technology

October 2011, Vol. 238 No. 10

After the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, a philanthropist and nonprofit organization joined forces to introduce a contest to improve ocean water oil spill cleanup techniques. On Oct. 11 the winners were awarded their prizes: the first prize recipients earned a $1 million purse for technology that in tests was able to recover oil from the sea surface at a rate of 4670 gallons per minute and 89% efficiency, almost twice the rate targeted by the contest’s organizers and three times the highest rate previously achieved under controlled conditions.

The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge launched in July 2010 and tested finalists over a 10 week period in summer 2011 at Ohmsett, an outdoor saltwater wave/tow facility in Leonardo, NJ run by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

According to organizers, the winning teams were required to demonstrate the highest ability to recover oil on a seawater surface at the highest Oil Recovery Rate (ORR) above 2,500 gallons per minute with an Oil Recovery Efficiency (ORE) of greater than 70 percent. The two winning teams were:

• $1 Million First Place Winner: Team Elastec/American Marine from Illinois, USA
Average ORR: 4670 gallons per minute
Average ORE: 89.5% oil to water recovered

The privately held 100-employee Elastec/American Marine says that used “local talent” for most of its fabrication.

• $300,000 Second Place Winner: Team NOFI from Tromsø, Norway
Average ORR: 2712 gallons per minute
Average ORE: 83.0% oil to water recovered

NOFI specializes in maritime technology and reached more than two times the industry’s previous best oil recovery rate tested in controlled conditions.

“First, I am thankful to Wendy Schmidt for stepping up to underwrite this competition. Second, congratulations to the winners and all the teams for their inspiration, teamwork, and technology,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman & CEO of X PRIZE Foundation. “I am continually amazed how a relatively small but significant purse can inspire such a global response. We are grateful for the enormous efforts of all the participants. What these teams were able to accomplish is truly remarkable and will have a significant impact on future oil cleanup efforts and better protect our ocean ecosystems and economies.”

Donor Wendy Schmidt is the president of the Schmidt Family Foundation and wife of Eric Schmidt, longtime CEO of Google.

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