BP has turned to "Waterworld" star Kevin Costner to help clean up the oil slick that is spreading across the Gulf of Mexico. The actor demonstrates a machine he funded that can separate oil from water.
Costner has been funding a team of scientists for 15 years in hopes of developing a technology to clean up massive oil spills, and his research has created a powerful centrifuge that he claims can separate oil from water and dump the oil into a holding tank.
Costner and representatives of Ocean Therapy Solutions, the firm that developed the machine, demonstrated the centrifugal device for BP officials in New Orleans last week. "I believe they'll want to do the right thing," Costner told reporters at the time.
Ain't that something? Best line from Dances with Wolves: "[Ocean Therapy is] prepared to go out and solve problems, not talk about them." The man's a Democrat, but this is the sort of Democrat the country needs.
If Ocean Therapy works as advertised (it probably doesn't, but if the Army Corps of Engineers is signing off on it, I'm prepared to except that reality's within an order of magnitude of the brochure), a single machine of the largest type can separate 99 percent of oil leaked into the water processed at a rate of 288,000 gal/day. The low end estimate for the Deepwater Horizon blowout is 210,000 gal/day. The largest device Costner's selling prices at $24 million a pop. Do the math.
So how does this compare to to today's separators? At first glance, 288,000 gal/day is small potatoes compared to something like JBF 6001, also known as the Valdez Star. This 600 ton giant oil skimmer was still in the design stages when Exxon Valdez, and apparently can clear slicks at 7 times the rate. I don't know the tonnage or bulk of the technology JBF uses for clean up, but we saw the device Costner intends to test in the Gulf. It fits on the back of a small flatbed truck. We also don't know how precisely, if at all, an array of such devices can be mated to recovery vessels needed to tank the recovered oil.