Can Kevin Costner’s Machines Really Help the Gulf Cleanup?
The oil-separating centrifuges will work, but they would have worked better months ago
By Dave Levitan / July 2010
14 July 2010—After 85 days, the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is now partially contained, and relief wells to stem the flow are inching closer to completion. Once the leak is fixed, the focus will shift to removing the oil that’s already in the water. The actor Kevin Costner has appeared on TV and in front of the U.S. Congress to tout his oil cleanup machines, but can they actually make a dent in the still-spreading environmental disaster?
Costner’s testimony on 9 June may have provided comedic fodder for late-night talk-show hosts, but according to David Meikrantz, a chemical engineer at Idaho National Laboratory who developed the technology in the early 1990s, the machines are no joke. He says there is no reason that the devices, essentially liquid-liquid separation centrifuges, shouldn’t work in the Gulf. They performed so well in BP’s initial tests that as many as 32 of them could be spinning in the Gulf in the coming weeks. But even though the technology is proven, Costner’s devices are no silver bullet.