DOE Pulse
  • Number 316  |
  • July 19, 2010

INL scientist's oil-water separator to help clean up Gulf oil spill

INL chemist David Meikrantz
demonstrates how his oil-water
separator works, using a small
version of the machine.

The enormous cleanup effort under way in the Gulf of Mexico is highlighting a frustrating, somewhat paradoxical truth: while oil and water don't mix, they can be awfully hard to separate.

But cleanup crews could soon start making more progress on the catastrophic BP oil spill, thanks to a 20-year-old invention by Idaho National Laboratory chemist David Meikrantz. BP recently purchased 32 oil-water centrifugal separators, machines based on technology Meikrantz patented back in 1990. The oil giant plans to deploy these "Kevin Costner machines" — Costner's company licensed the invention in 1993 — throughout the Gulf.

"This technology is about cleaning the oil up before it gets to shore," Meikrantz says, "before those tar balls start washing up."

[Mike Wall, 208.526.0490,]