British clean tech company Ultra Green has unveiled its new technology that can potentially clean up the majority of the estimated 4 million bbls of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of September. After successfully passing all rigorous safety checks to ensure the rig is seaworthy, the first Ultra Green Oil Harvester is being launched from Gulfport in a trial to test its ability to soak up oil.
Ultra Green’s technology is a unique membrane, originally developed for algae technology by the US military. The membrane soaks up only oil, unlike conventional skimmers, which suck up water as well. Deployed in belts on submerged rollers mounted on towed platforms, it will gather oil from the surface to a depth of up to 15 ft.
Oil is released by compression and the belt is re-submerged into the water, ensuring continuous collection. The oil is siphoned into barges, and taken away to be cleaned and reused, rather than being burned at sea or dumped in landfill. The arrays are designed specifically to be fitted simply and quickly to local fishing boats and other vessels without the need for major modifications.
Ultra Green’s oil collection rigs can be scaled up to a fleet big enough to remove the surface and subsurface oil in weeks. To carry the operation of this size the company is calling for financial backing to the tune of US$ 250 million.
To coincide with the demonstration of its ability to remove spilled subsurface oil, Ultra Green is publishing a report highlighting what a range of observers believe will be the long term impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the health, environment and economy of the Southern States.
Oil spill remains environmental threat
The company warns that while the spilled oil may be less evident as it drops to just below the surface, often with the encouragement of controversial chemical dispersants, it remains a major threat to the health of the environment, wildlife and the human population.
Ultra Green CEO David Weaver, a former Managing Director of BP Northern Europe Gas, Power and Renewables and an international authority on oil spill clear up said: ‘No one should be under any illusion that the problem is over, the work of remediation is only just beginning. If harmful chemicals have been absorbed in the ocean, these can be converted to a gaseous hydrogen compound, which can be released at varying temperatures. There is growing evidence that there is more oil chemistry contamination in the water below the surface than anyone has yet owned up to and the effects will be difficult to predict.’
He also added that while the oil industry was essential to the economy of the Southern States, ‘It must clean up its act as well as the oil spill or there will be a further erosion of trust which could even threaten more jobs.’
In addition to removing oil at depths of 5, 10 or 15 ft, Ultra Green is confident that it also has technology to remediate the ocean floor and to safely convert toxic landfill waste to useable energy.