X Prize for new oil spill cleanup technology worth $1 million

An oil skimming vehicle in action on a polluted beach

The X Prize Foundation will award $1 million to the innovator who creates the winning new technology for the Oil Cleanup X Challenge. Deepwater Horizon Response/Flickr photo.

An X Prize for oil spill cleanup technology was announced July 29. The X Prize Foundation is putting up $1.4 million in prizes for the Oil Cleanup X Challenge. Participants will have the next year to come up with new oil spill cleanup solutions. A panel of experts will select the most promising innovations. The finalists will compete for the $1 million first prize at an oil spill research center in New Jersey. Second and third place finishers will receive $300,000 and $100,000.

The Oil Cleanup X Challenge

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 has shown that oil exploration and drilling technology has far outrun oil spill cleanup technology. ABC News reports that the X Prize Foundation Oil Cleanup X Challenge calls on inventors to tackle the problem. The Oil Cleanup X Challenge challenge is similar to other contests the X Prize Foundation has sponsored to develop spacecraft and build fuel-efficient vehicles. The Oil Cleanup X Challenge begins Aug. 1 and will be open for one year. The prize “will be awarded to the team that demonstrates the ability to recover oil on the sea surface at the highest oil recovery rate and the highest recovery efficiency,” according to the challenge website.

X Prize Foundation to select 10 finalists

The Oil Clean-up X Challenge is supported by a range of top environmental organizations, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Resources Defense Council , Alliance for Climate Protection and Global Green. The Dirt, a blog by the American Association of Landscape Architects, said additional corporate or foundation donations are being solicited to expand the funds available for winners. Next year, 10 Oil Clean-up X Challenge finalists will demonstrate their technologies on the water at the National Oil Spill Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility in New Jersey. Other energy firms may also participate to see which technologies can quickly be rolled out.

Oil spill cleanup technology behind the curve

Oil spill cleanup technology has changed little since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska more than 20 years ago. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 is being cleaned up with booms, skimmers, chemical dispersants and burning on the surface. Popular Mechanics reports that since the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the biggest improvements have come in information technology and how oil spill responders collect and use the data. Oil spill-trajectory modeling, satellite spill sensing and laser fluorosensors to detect oil spills from aircraft have become standard.

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