X Prize Foundation Launches $1.4 Million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge

The X Prize Foundation has announced the launch of a $1.4 million competition to encourage the development of solutions for cleaning up oil spills, including the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The foundation's sixth major incentive competition, the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge is designed to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists worldwide to develop innovative, rapidly deployable, and highly efficient methods of capturing crude oil from the surface of the ocean. Through the competition, the foundation hopes to connect philanthropic and venture capital to the development of oil cleanup capabilities, provide a global platform through which new technologies can compete head-to-head, and identify the best cleanup approaches and technologies for future spills.

During phase one of the competition, which will run from August though next April, teams will submit their ideas for cleaning up slicks created by spills or leaks from ships and tankers, land drainage, waste disposal, and oil platform spills. A panel of experts from industry and academia will evaluate the proposals based on criteria such as the ability to deploy and scalability of the technology, cost and the human labor required to implement it, and its advantages over baseline booms and skimmers. For phase two, the judges will select up to ten teams to demonstrate their ability to rapidly and efficiently and clean up spilled oil in a head-to-head competition at the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility in New Jersey. The winning team will be determined based on its ability to recover surface oil at both the highest rate and efficiency. The winning team will receive a $1 million prize, while the runner-up will receive $300,000 and the third-place team will receive $100,000.

Named for the president of the Schmidt Family Foundation, the competition is supported by the Alliance for Climate Protection, Global Green, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, the Ocean Conservancy, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"The devastating impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will last for years and it is inevitable that future spills will occur — both from wells and from transport tankers," said X Prize Foundation president Peter Diamandis. "To be prepared to safeguard oceans and shores, the X Prize Foundation is announcing the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge to find the most effective and environmentally safe solutions for capturing oil from all spills at the spill site, thus limiting their impacts and protecting our oceans, shores, marshes, and, importantly, the health and well-being of the people and wildlife that live and thrive in these communities."

"X PRIZE Foundation Announces Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE." X Prize Foundation Press Release 07/29/2010.