Home > Environment > Gulf Oil Spill gets the Red Carpet Treatment

Gulf Oil Spill gets the Red Carpet Treatment

The BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf might find its technological savior in Hollywood. Kevin Costner, actor and apparent tech-aficionado, has a technology that is designed to separate oil and water to minimize environmental damage from oil spills. For more than 15 years, Costner has funded the company Ocean Therapy Solutions (OTS) and its team of scientists to work this technology, originally obtained from the Department of Energy in 1992-93 via a technology transfer agreement. Today, the company has a series of five machines that process 2-200 gallons-per-minute of contaminated water. Due to the scale of the Gulf oil spill, the V20 (200 gallon-per-minute) version is the likely front-runner. Another example of the long-term positive impacts of basic R&D funding.

Costner’s centrifuge technology separates the oil and water to a greater than 99% purity – meaning it gets almost all of oil out of the water. After initial testing by BP, the oil company has signed on the dotted line to purchase 32 of these machines for use in the Gulf. Each machine is capable of processing 200 gallons-per-minute of contaminated sea water, removing about 3,000 gallons per day of oil.

After two months of botched “containment” and failed “top kill” efforts, I am heartened to learn about a technological solution that might help in the situation we have now – where the oil has escaped and we are already experiencing the negative environmental impacts.

To watch a video on the technology, you can go here.

To see an interview with Costner on the technology, check out this video.

To learn (briefly) about Costner’s testimony on Capitol Hill, check out this link .

  1. June 16, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for writing a bit about this. I understand that Saudi Arabia has special ships which suck in sea water and oil and process out the oil, putting the clean sea water back. It was in local media that these were offered to BP to help with the spill in the very early days of the disaster, and they were turned down. How does this technology differ from Costner’s? In addition, I’m nervous about looking to Costner’s technique, although wonderful as a ‘something’ within the black hole of nothing we seem to be starring down, is not a total solution — it can’t address the oil already destroying our estuaries and marshlands.

  2. June 16, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Holly.

    From everything I’ve been able to read (to date) the process is slightly different technologically (it’s more of a distillation process than a centrifuge). Beyond that, the technology used on those ships are integrated with the vessels themselves, while this technology (Costner’s) is portable. It can be integrated with any pump system (for the types of ships we have access to here).

    From what I’ve discovered, it appears that we had the Saudi cleanup technology in the US decades ago, but companies sold of these vessels (unknown reasons, though some believe it was to limit their potential liability in the case of a spill).

    I agree – the oil that’s already out there is a problem. We can’t undo the damage that’s already been done. But, we might be able to minimize future environmental damage. Also, if this technology pans out then we can have it available for use – perhaps even on rigs for “small” spills that happen more regularly – and by having it available, we might lessen the negative environmental impacts of our oil supply.

  1. June 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm

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