Earlier this week, on October 11, 2011, the X Prize Foundation awarded $1.3 million dollars to two companies, Elastic/American Marine and NOFI, for developing new technology to clean up oil spills.
The X Prize Foundation launched the Oil Cleanup Challenge in July 2010 in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The competition was designed to inspire scientists and engineers to create innovative, rapidly deployable and highly efficient methods to capture crude oil from the ocean surface. The contestants were challenged to create technology that could recover oil at a rate greater than 2,500 gallons per minute (9,464 liters per minute) and with a recovery efficiency greater than 70 percent. Then, the contestants had to demonstrate their products capabilities at the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility in Leonardo, New Jersey, USA.
There were 350 entry submissions from around the world. The first prize of $1 million dollars was awarded to Elastec/American Marine from Illinois, USA. A second prize of $300,000 dollars was awarded to NOFI from Tromsø, Norway. A third prize of $100,000 was not awarded because no other companies were able to meet the contest’s stringent requirements for speed and efficiency.
Elastic/American Marine is a manufacturer of oil spill and environmental equipment with a global reputation for innovation. The technology they developed for the X Prize Oil Cleanup Challenge was able to recover oil at a rate of 4670 gallons per minute (17,678 liters per minute), and had an efficiency of 89.5 % oil to water recovered.
NOFI develops, manufactures and sells products and services around the world, primarily in the maritime sector. The technology they developed for the X Prize Oil Cleanup Challenge was able to recover oil at a rate of 2712 gallons per minute (10,266 liters per minute), and had an efficiency of 83.0 % oil to water recovered.
Wendy Schmidt, President of the Schmidt Family Foundation and donor of the money for the X Prize Oil Cleanup Challenge, stated in a press release:
I am proud to see how this competition drove the creation and demonstration of better, more efficient methods to cleaning up oil from the ocean surface.
The X Prize Foundation is a leading nonprofit organization that works to solve the world’s most pressing challenges by creating incentivized competitions that stimulate research and development. The organization sponsors competitions in four main areas including Education and Global Development, Energy and Environment, Life Sciences and Exploration.
Dr. Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation commented in the press release:
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 spill cleanup efforts and better protect our ocean ecosystems and economies.
Bottom line: congratulations to Elastic/American Marine and NOFI for winning the X Prize Oil Cleanup Challenge to develop new technologies that hold promise for improving oil spill response.
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.