Fred Giovannitti is that rarity: a man who divides his time between two extremely disparate careers. Giovannitti makes his living giving tattoos to discerning customers in Las Vegas, but he also spends a considerable amount of time as the creative director at Vor-Tek Recovery Solutions, a young company with a mission to engineer new ways of cleaning the world’s oceans and waterways.
The winning team’s tale and the Oil Cleanup X Challenge underscore how far behind major sectors of the global economy and global infrastructure remain. What’s more, many of these forgotten, slow-moving sectors are far more important to the long-term health and well-being of the United States and its citizens. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are nearly 20,000 oil spills — large and small — per year, a number that has grown considerably over the past two decades.
A breakthrough in oil cleanup technology allows crews to skim spilled oil off the water's surface at a much faster rate. The new device wasn't developed by Exxon, BP or any of the major oil companies — it's the work of Elastec/American Marine, based in Illinois. And the design won the company a rich award from the X Prize Foundation.
Elastec/American Marine CEO Donnie Wilson and Schmidt Family Foundation President Wendy Schmidt on Elastec/American Marine winning a $1 million prize for its breakthroughs in improving the ability to clean up oil spills more quickly and efficiently.
Team Elastec/ American Marine, a team from Illinois, created a faster method for cleaning up oil spills, and won $1 million in the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. Wendy Schmidt, the prize donor, is interviewed about her work with the X PRIZE Foundation, and gives details about the prize, and what this means for cleaning up the oceans.
Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize Foundation and inventor Donnie Wilson on Wilson's Oil Cleanup X Challenge win.
In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 10 teams accepted a challenge to develop systems to clean crude oil on the ocean's surface at a rate of more than 2,500 gallons per minute.
The winning team of the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, Elastec/American Marine, raised this number to an unprecedented 4,670 gallons per minute.
Sure, skimmer ships, containment booms and dispersants deployed immediately, aiming to capture oil gushing from the blown well beneath the destroyed Deepwater Horizon rig. But week after frustrating week, the best available technologies failed to make much of an impact. But some people saw opportunity in this disaster — a chance to prove a new idea, or maybe build upon an old concept. The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, under the auspices of the X Prize Foundation, encouraged competitors to design new oil-removal technologies that would dramatically improve the state of the art. Today in New York, we found out just how far some friendly competition and a tidy sum can push the technological envelope.
The Wendy Schmidt (yes, that Schmidt) Oil Cleanup Challenge named Elastec/American Marine, an Illinois firm, the winner of the $1 million grand prize for developing a more efficient skimmer technology to sop up petroleum spills. The second-place $300,000 award went to a Norwegian company called NOFI that has built a boom that collects oil and then separates it from the water.
The X Prize Foundation today announced the winners of its year-long, US$1.4-million challenge to spur development of improved oil-collection systems for use during spills. The victorious team almost doubled the competition's minimum threshold for success, and more than tripled previous best efforts.