XPrize Offers New Oil Spill Contest Details

In June, we broke the news here that the XPrize Foundation would soon be announcing a new contest to encourage innovation in oil spill clean-up technology, an initiative spurred by the Gulf Coast oil spill. Last week, XPrize organizers officially kicked off the contest and offered new details.

Called the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, the $1 million prize contest is named for the wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Wendy also is the chief of the Schmidt Family Foundation, which is putting up the prize money.

The contest aims to encourage the development of "breakthrough technologies that will speed the pace of cleaning up seawater surface oil resulting from spillage from ocean platforms, tankers, and other sources," organizers say on the XPrize Web site.

This X Challenge is a one-year competition that culminates in the summer of 2011; the $1 million prize will be awarded to the team that demonstrates the ability to recover oil on the sea surface at the highest oil recovery rate and the highest recovery efficiency. Final contest rules will be posted on the X Prize site in September.

"The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill appears to be contained but the devastating impact caused by this oil spill will last for years," the contest Web site reads. "It is also inevitable that future oil spills will occur, so we need to be prepared to safeguard our oceans and shores."

Teams from around the world are being invited to start registering for this competition now; judges from academia and the oil cleanup industry will select the top teams after evaluating their proposals, using a weighted score based on the following criteria:  technical approach and commercialization plan; minimal negative environmental impact; scalability of and ability to deploy technology; cost and human labor of implementation; and improvement of technology over today’s baseline “booms and skimmers.”

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