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Inspired by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, Kevin Costner decided that the world needed a machine that would quickly and safely remove spilled oil from water. So he started building.
It took him more than a decade to perfect, cost him more than $20 million of his own money, and, until recently, had impressed none of the people to whom he had tried to sell it.
In May, however, a desperate BP asked Costner to send them some machines for testing. And yesterday, Costner testified before Congress about those tests and the technology he has demonstrated for BP.
According to the testimony, Costner's machines have worked as advertised, turning oily water into 99.9% clean water and 99.9% waterless oil. BP has been so impressed that they just placed an order for 32 more machines. And other observers have been so impressed that Edison Chouest, a major marine transportation company, wants to work with Costner on developing a boat that specializes in oil spill recovery.
It is is still unclear how fast Costner's technologies can be deployed and how much of an impact they can have on what has become an enormous oil spill. But it seems like they will probably prove more helpful than many of the ideas BP has tried thus far.