Elastec / American Marine

First Place $1 Million Winner
Competition Results: 
4670 89.5% 4706 88.9% 4633 90.1%

ORR = Oil recovery rate in gallons per minute
ORE = Oil recover efficiency in percentage of oil to water collected
Full competition results available here

Team Leader Bio: 
Don is manager of the Elastec/ American Marine Aluminum Boat Division. He has 30 years experience in the design and manufacture of recreation vessels. He holds a BA Degree in Design from Southern Illinois University. Don was also embedded at the Deep Water Horizon event as an on-shore facilitator representing Elastec/ American Marine for the In-Situ burn task force.
Team Story: 

You cannot give the history of the Elastec / American Marine Team without starting at the beginnings of Elastec / American Marine. The company was started by Donnie Wilson and Jeff Cantrell. Elastec / American Marine began as any other Southern Illinois oilfield service company. It was their innovation though, that earned them their reputation, oilmen with a problem with machinery design would come to see them. “They would draw out a design on a napkin and say 'Can you build this?'" Donnie would say. We're still doing that - solving problems.

The firm holds two international patents and six domestic patents on its products. They got the idea of an oil recovery system after responding to an oil spill locally that was quite small, but equipment was being used in the effort to recover the spilled oil and it wasn't doing the job very well at all. Donnie said he asked Jeff to throw him a five-gallon plastic bucket to help in the recovery effort but luckily Jeff’s aim was off that day and the wind caught the bucket and blew it into the spill on the water. The wind continued to turn the bucket and Wilson noticed that as the bucket turned, oil stuck to the side of it, leading them to their first invention of oil recovery equipment. So it began. That bucket spawned the barrel skimmer, a highly successful skimmer on the market today. Never being satisfied with the “norm” Donnie and Jeff continued their pursuit to construct even more efficient skimmer apparatus and in 1990 obtained the first of many patents for innovation in the field of pollution control equipment.

Fast forward to April 20, 2010… the Transocean drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded. This event was immediately devastating as 11 crewmen were killed. The rig sank two days later. As information was being gathered, it was not known how much, if any, oil was being leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. By Saturday, April 24th an oil leak was reported near the sunken rig. Over the course of the coming months it became the largest oil spill in US history. Elastec / American Marine was contacted on the morning of April 26th with a request for Hydro-Fire® Boom. Donnie Wilson and Jeff Cantrell drove a truck loaded with equipment towards New Orleans, Louisiana. While all the resources and options were being gathered and assessed for managing the response, the U.S. Coast Guard announced it would conduct a test using fire resistant boom to burn the oil floating on the water’s surface. The boom they selected was the Hydro-Fire® Boom, manufactured by Elastec / American Marine. The test was a success and the Coast Guard then authorized controlled burning as a response tool. This is the first time that the technique of burning oil on water in a large scale incident has been proven – reducing the impact on the shoreline and sensitive ecosystem of the Gulf coast. By the time the well was capped a record 411 burns were conducted with some lasting up to 12 hours in duration. On the 18th of June alone, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 barrels of oil were removed from the marine environment according to official estimates.

In the beginning, burns would last one hour. As more burns happened, the technique was refined and burns up to 12 hours in duration became possible - removing vast amounts of oil from the marine environment. 219,000 to 309,000 barrels of oil are estimated to have been removed from the marine environment in these controlled burns. In the midst of what seemed like constant bad news concerning the leaking well, the burns were being recognized as one of the best alternatives and providing hope as an effective response tool. As giant smoke plumes bellowed into the sky, people were worried about how it would affect air quality for workers, citizens on shore and the environment in general. The Environmental Protection Agency, stationed with burn teams, conducted studies that showed the smoke was not toxic as it appeared. While the smoke looked quite ominous, it was nothing more than a temporary side effect to solving a larger problem. There was no more environmental impact incurring with the burns than if the oil had been processed and used in its intended purpose. In addition to supporting the controlled burning Elastec / American Marine supplied approximately 180 skimmers and 100 miles of containment boom to assist BP and other responders in their cleanup efforts.

After the well was capped and the flow of oil stopped the Elastec / American Marine team began to analyze the events of the past months and the efficiencies of the equipment and methods used to combat the spill. At this time word came out about the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. An excellent motivation at an opportune time. A team was assembled and the problem solving process began. True to the tradition of the X PRIZE Foundation the task will not be easy, but then again neither is burning 300000 barrels of oil in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

Team Quote: 
"The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE is the exact stimulus needed to spur the research needed to develop systems to mitigate the disastrous effects of oil spills. Members of our company have pioneered a new skimmer testing standard (F2709), this new skimmer testing standard took 3 years to develop with the ASTM committee. Testing is paramount to understanding the capabilities of equipment, and to provide responders with better information. Well articulated guidelines, specific testing parameters, and a controlled testing environment, are exactly what is needed to circumnavigate the unsubstantiated claims and boastings of entrepreneurs using the urgent mood of a disaster to push technologies that have little or no testing, nor any regard for possible future environmental consequences of their usage."
Team Leader: 
Don Johnson
Team Location: 
Team Members: 
Donnie Wilson
Jeff Cantrell
Stewart Ellis
Charles Storey
Brian Orr
The Glosten Associates, Inc
Competition Video: