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As Rena oil spill develops, cutting-edge US cleanup technology unveiled

Here's the kind of know-how we need to help avert New Zealand's "worst environmental disaster", in the words of environment minister Nick Smith.

As the Rena oil spill saga continues to unfold in the Bay of Plenty, the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, a US competition born in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, has revealed a score of cutting-edge oil-removal techniques.

Nearly 400 applicants were narrowed down to 10 finalists, with all teams meeting the minimum criteria to be eligible for the $1 million prize: a technology capable of an average oil recover efficiency (ORE) of more than 70 percent (in other words, the mixture extracted from water must be 70 percent oil) and an oil recover rate (ORR) of 2,500 gallons per minute. That's approximately double what the oil cleanup industry’s current best technology can manage.

Runner-up team NOFI from Norway showed off technology that can extract 2,712 gallons per minute with an ORE of 83 percent. But Team Elastec/American Marine outshone all contenders, recovering 4,670 gallons per minute at efficiencies averaging 89.5 percent.

Elastec/American Marine, based out of Illinois, is a privately-held manufacturer of oil spill and environmental equipment.
From its beginnings more than 20 years ago, it has grown into a 100+ employee operation that's one of the largest makers of such machinery in North America.