A team of oil cleanup experts has developed a machine that skims oil out of water at an efficiency rate unheard of within the industry. And in doing so, have won a pretty hefty prize.
Let's look at it this way: This design works almost 5 times as well as is required by industry standards. Oil cleanup devices normally remove about 1,100 gallons of oil per minute. This new machine removes it at nearly 5,000 gallons per minute.
This oil skimmer, developed by an Illinois company called Elastec/American Marine, has won the grand prize in the Oil Cleanup X Challenge. The challenge was sponsored by the X Prize Foundation, a group that awards big money for technological innovations. The Oil Cleanup X Challenge was funded by Wendy Schmidt, wife of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE is a $1.4 million competition designed to inspire a new generation of innovative solutions that will speed the pace of cleaning up seawater surface oil resulting from spillage from ocean platforms, tankers, and other sources. This one year competition will culminate in the fall of 2011, with competitive demonstrations taking place at OHMSETT, the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility. A $1.4 million prize will be awarded to the teams that demonstrate the ability to recover oil on the sea surface at the highest Oil Recovery Rate (ORR) of over 2,500 GPM with an Oil Recovery Efficiency (ORE) of more than 70%.
Elastec shattered those contest standards with nearly 5,000 GPM and an ORE of around 90%. In the process, they won a cool $1 million for their creation.
Their revolutionary oil removal technology involves spinning grooved discs that pull the oil from the water and transfer it to multiple troughs within the machine. According to NPR, the full-scale device is about the size of a U-Haul truck.
Check out the video below to see a close-up demonstration of how the technology works with a 1-disc prototype. The video (which is about as epic as oil cleanup can be) also shows the finished device in action. It even works with waves!
With the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill still fresh in our minds and affecting America's coast, oil cleanup technology is being sought more and more. Elastec currently sports only 100 or so employees, but with calls already coming in from all over the world, I'm sure an expansion is in the near future.