May 19, 2010— -- BP has turned to "Waterworld" star Kevin Costner to help clean up the oil slick that is spreading across the Gulf of Mexico.
Costner has been funding a team of scientists for 15 years in hopes of developing a technology to clean up massive oil spills, and his research has created a powerful centrifuge that he claims can separate oil from water and dump the oil into a holding tank.
Costner and representatives of Ocean Therapy Solutions, the firm that developed the machine, demonstrated the centrifugal device for BP officials in New Orleans last week. "I believe they'll want to do the right thing," Costner told reporters at the time.
"We've agreed to test it," BP spokesman Mark Proegler told ABCNews.com today.
Officials with Ocean Therapy Solutions have said one of their machines is capable of cleaning up to 210,000 gallons of water per day. The oil extractor leaves the water 99 percent clean of crude, the firm said in a statement.
"The machines are basically sophisticated centrifuge devices that can handle a huge volume of water and separate at unprecedented rates," said Ocean Therapy Solutions CEO John Houghtaling. "They were developed from older centrifuge technology. Normal centrifuge machines are very slow and sensitive to different ratios of oil to water mixtures at intake."
The devices, which can be taken to the spill site via barges, come in different sizes. The largest can clean water at a rate of 200 gallons per minute -- more than 50 gallons faster than the well is leaking, according to the firm. Depending on the water to oil ratio, the devices are capable of extracting 2,000 barrels of oil per day from the gulf. BP is employing six of the machines in its tests.
The "Field of Dreams"s star figured if he built it, they would come.
Costner could not be reached for comment today, but last week he told reporters, "Years before I got involved, oil spills came and I would wonder why we couldn't clean this up."
The research team Costner has financed since then has been headed by his brother.
BP has been struggling to stop a torrent of oil pouring into the gulf since an underwater explosion sank the Deepwater Horizon drill ship last month, killing 11 rig workers and creating a massive environmental catastrophe.
Costner's "Waterworld" Machine to BP's Rescue
Repeated efforts to staunch the flow of oil have failed, although earlier this week BP succeeded in inserting a tube into the shattered drill well, siphoning 84,000 gallons of oil a day to a ship.Still, oil is seeping from the disaster site and could contaminate the Florida Keys, the Cuban coast and be carried by currents along the East Coast, according to experts. Some 46,000 square miles in the gulf are now off limits to fishermen.
The spill has not reach beaches and delicate wetlands so far because of favorable winds and tides. In addition, booms have been used to corral the oil but the spill has breached the booms in some areas.
More than 100 lawsuits have been filed in relation to the oil spill.