X Prize opens $1.4M competition for technology to rapidly clean up oil spills

Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge could develop innovative technology within two years

nasa space view of gulf oil spill
As expected,  X Prize Foundation today announced a $1.4 Million competition for advanced technology to help clean up devastating oil spills like the one currently threatening the Gulf Coast.

Officially called the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, the completion hopes to attract  teams from around the world to develop technology  that can rapidly clean up oil spills.  The competition will be held at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility (OHMSETT) in Leonardo, New Jersey.

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X Prize is offering serious incentive to develop state of the art oil cleanup technologies, said Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation.  "Truly innovative, rapidly deployable, and high capacity methods of capturing crude oil from the ocean doesn't exist today.  We need to change that."

The X Prize Foundation hopes to attract philanthropic and venture capital to support development of this important capability and provide a global platform where new technologies can be competed head-to-head, and the best approaches demonstrated, to prepare for future catastrophe, Diamandis said. "The devastating impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill will last for years and it is inevitable that future spills will occur - both from wells and from transport tankers," Diamandis said.

Taking the technology and getting it used in the marketplace is the ultimate goal, Diamandis said.

The money behind the competition comes from Wendy Schmidt, President, The Schmidt Family Foundation  and Founder of the Foundation's 11th Hour Project and Climate Central. Co-Founder of the Schmidt Marine Science Research Institute. 

"With more than ten thousands of ocean oil platforms across the globe, and millions of barrels of oil being transported every day by tankers, it's not a question of 'if' there will be another oil spill, but 'when,' Schmidt stated. 

Diamandis said official rules for the completion are still being developed but the completion Web site states the Challenge will have two phases:

Phase I. From August 2010 - April 2011, teams from around the world are invited to register for this competition, and to submit their approach to clean up oil slicks created by spills or leaks from ships or tankers (e.g. Exxon Valdez) land drainage, waste disposal, or oil platform spill (e.g. Deepwater Horizon). An expert panel of judges from industry and academia will evaluate all of the proposals along the following criteria:

- Technical approach and commercialization plan

- No negative environmental impact

- Scalability of and ability to deploy technology; cost and human labor of implementation

- Improvement of technology over today's baseline booms and skimmers

Phase II. The judges will select up to 10 of the top teams to demonstrate their ability to efficiently and rapidly clean up oil on the ocean surface in a head-to-head competition. These proofs of capability, which will determine the winner, will take place at OHSMETT. The top team that demonstrates the ability to recover oil on the sea-water surface at the highest oil recovery rate (ORR) and recovery efficiency will win the $1 million Grand Purse. Second place will win $300,000 and third place will win $100,000 in purses.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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