Last July, in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the X PRIZE Foundation launched the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. As with previous X PRIZE competitions, this one was intended to encourage private sector scientific research, by offering a cash prize to whichever team could best meet a given challenge. In this case, teams had to demonstrate a system of their own making, that could recover oil from a sea water surface at the highest Oil Recovery Rate (ORR) above 2,500 US gallons (9,463.5 liters) per minute, with an Oil Recovery Efficiency (ORE) of greater than 70 percent. Today, the winning teams were announced.
Taking the US$1million first prize was Team Elastec/American Marine, with an ORR of 4,670 gallons (17,678 liters) per minute and an ORE of 89.5 percent. The Illinois-based team used a unique grooved disc skimmer, which is designed to be pulled alongside a boat. Elastec/American Marine is reportedly one of the largest manufacturers of oil spill equipment in North America.
Norway's Team NOFI took the $300,000 second prize, managing an ORR of 2,712 gallons (10,266 liters) per minute and an ORE of 83 percent. NOFI's Current Buster Technology incorporates a flexible V-shaped surface boom, that is towed between two vessels or alongside one (via an overhead arm). Oil is corralled down to the end of the V, where a separator removes it from the water. The company claims that its system can collect and separate oil at speeds of up to 5 knots.
The $100,000 third prize was not awarded.