News / Arts & Entertainment

Costner's Dream Machine Separates Oil from Water

TEXT SIZE - +

In a packed hearing room on Capitol Hill, lawmakers heard about the challenges of capturing the oil which continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion of the Deep Water Horizon oil rig on April 20.  The panel included scientists, government officials and an Academy Award winning actor.

Kevin Costner came before the House Committee on Science and Technology not as a movie star, but as a concerned citizen and entrepreneur with an idea that could help in the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Haunted by images of the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill, Costner saw promise in a technology that could separate oil from water.

"[It's] a technology that I believe that had the potential to fight catastrophic oil spills and serve as the first line of defense in the oil spill cleanup and recovery," Costner said .

Costner invested more than $20 million in a company to design and build the machine. "The biggest plus is that it would be easy to operate."

Essentialy, it's a power vacuum that sucks up as much as 760 liters of polluted seawater a minute, spins it through a centrifuge, separates out the oil into a holding tank and dumps the clean water back into the sea. But Costner told Congress that his enthusiasm for the project was outmatched by apathy from government and private industry.

"The list of government agencies, oil companies and foreign companies we contacted reads like a 'who's who' of those who needed it, those who should have been looking for it and probably more to the point those who should have been developing it themselves," he explained.

Costner was told the device was too expensive.  That there was no need for it.  That oil spills were infrequent. But, Costner said, when spills - large or small - did occur, he stepped forward.

"We would offer to take our machines out there,"he said.  "And we couldn't get out on to the spots because the Coastguard would regulate that we couldn't get there. This kind of ineptness silenced the company," said Costner.

One reason explained Nancy Kinner, co-director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire and another member of the panel testifying before lawmakers, was issues of trying new technologies during a spill.  

"You have to be sure that you are not increasing the risk by using those technologies," she said.

Nor, Kinner said, can the U.S. deploy controlled spills on water - like controlled forest fires - to test technology.

"They do it in Canada. They do it Norway. There is no opportunity to do it in this country, and I think we need to open up that possibility," said Kinner.

The technology deployed so far in the Gulf - booms, skimmer boats and dispersants - hasn't advanced much since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, the largest to date before the disaster in the Gulf.  Albert Venosa, who directs the Land Remediation and Pollution Control Division of the Environmental Protection Agency's National Risk Management Research Laboratory, testified that many unknowns remain about the impact of oil dispersants in the water column, especially at great depths.

"We've never had to deal with a deep sea blow out like this before, especially at 5,000 feet below the surface," he explained.  "So no, we don't know what the long-term effects will be and we didn't know it 51 days ago either," he said.  

Venosa added that the risks and benefits for each action must be weighed. "And, no matter what you do there is going to be something that is going to be damaged."

The risk could be minimized, according to Kevin Costner. He called on lawmakers to consider the valuable role his machine could play. Earlier in the week he got some good news. BP, which has been testing the device, has placed an order for 32 additional machines that will soon be deployed in the Gulf.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Saxophonist Craig Handy has an exciting new band called 2nd Line Smith, which combines the organ-jazz repertoire of Jimmy Smith with the “second line” rhythms of New Orleans parade music. Craig Handy joins "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten at Washington’s Bohemian Caverns jazz club to talk about the music and perform with the band.