British engineers unveil potential solution to clean up oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

A British clean tech company claims to have developed a new technology that can potentially clean up the majority of the estimated 4million barrels of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of September.

Ultra Green's Oil Harvester is being launched from Gulfport in a trial to test its ability to soak up oil. The company'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, Ultra Green says it will gather oil from the surface to a depth of up to 15feet. Oil is released by compression and the belt is resubmerged 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 claims its 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 of around $250 million – a fraction of what has been spent on attempts to clean up the spillage so far. Ultra Green ceo, David Weaver is a former managing director of BP Northern Europe Gas, Power and Renewables and an international authority on oil spill clear up. Green 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." In addition to removing oil at depths of 5, 10 or 15feet, Ultra Green is confident that it also has technology to remediate the ocean floor and to safely convert toxic landfill waste to useable energy.