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X PRIZE Foundation Announces Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE

posted Jan 29, 2011, 12:19 AM by Cesar Harada   [ updated Feb 1, 2011, 10:50 AM by Etienne Gernez ]

Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE logo

$1.4 Million X CHALLENGE for Demonstration of Rapidly-deployable,
Highly Efficient Methods for Cleaning Up Crude Oil on the Ocean Surface

1 August 2010

Launch and pre-registration

PHASE I: Submissions 

27 October 2010

Registration opens

31 January 2011

Registration deadline

15 February 2011

Submissions deadline

18 March 2011-14 April 2011

Review and selection Semi-Finalist Teams (up to 10)

20 April 2011

Formal announcement of Semi-Finalist Teams

PHASE II: Field Testing 

21 April 2011 – 11 July 2011

Semi-Finalist Teams design, build, and perform optional trials at OHMSETT

11 July 2011- 8 September 2011

Semi-Final field testing of up to 10 Semi-Finalist Teams’ solutions at OHMSETT

9 September 2011 - 26 September 2011

Final field testing of three Finalist Teams’ solutions at OHMSETT

By 30 October 2011

Award Ceremony

Washington, DC (July 29, 2010) - The X PRIZE Foundation (, best known for launching the private spaceflight industry through the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, and the ultra-fuel efficient vehicle market through the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, today announced the launch of its sixth major incentive competition, the $1.4 Million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X

At a press conference in Washington, DC, the announcement was made by X PRIZE Chairman Peter H. Diamandis together with Wendy Schmidt, who personally funded the $1.4 million prize purse. Wendy Schmidt is president of The Schmidt Family Foundation, Founder of the Foundation's 11th Hour Project and Climate Central, as well as Co-founder, with her husband Eric, of the Schmidt Marine Science Research Institute. Other speakers included Philippe Cousteau, son of Jan and Philippe Cousteau Sr., and grandson of Captain Jacques- Yves Cousteau and co-founder and CEO of EarthEcho International; and Dr. Dave Gallo, Ph.D., Director of Special Projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

The goal of the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE is to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists worldwide to develop innovative, rapidly deployable, and highly efficient methods of capturing crude oil from the ocean surface. In making the announcement, the X PRIZE Foundation hopes to attract philanthropic and venture capital to support development of this important capability and provide a global platform where new technologies can be competed head-to-head, and the best approaches demonstrated, to prepare for future catastrophes.

"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," stated Dr. 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 which live and thrive in these communities."

"With more then ten thousands of ocean oil platforms across the globe, and million of barrels of oil being transported every day by tankers, it's not a question of 'if' there will be another oil spill, but 'when,'" stated Wendy Schmidt. "We need to come up with better solutions to capture oil on the surface, to minimize the harm these spills are causing to marine life, coastal wetlands, and beaches, and to our livelihoods - a harm that can last for generations. This is why I am personally funding this X CHALLENGE: to inspire innovators around the world - and all those who want to help address what has happened in the Gulf - to focus on solutions to an ongoing, systemic problem."

Competition Rules

The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE has two phases:

Phase I. From August 2010 - April 2011, teams from around the world are invited to register for this competition, and to submit their approach to clean up oil slicks created by spills or leaks from ships or tankers (e.g. Exxon Valdez) land drainage, waste disposal, or oil platform spill (e.g. Deepwater Horizon). An expert panel of judges from industry and academia will evaluate all of the proposals along the following criteria:

- Technical approach and commercialization plan
- No negative environmental impact
- Scalability of and ability to deploy technology; cost and human labor of implementation
- Improvement of technology over today’s baseline booms and skimmers

Phase II. The judges will select up to 10 of the top teams to demonstrate their ability to efficiently and rapidly clean up oil on the ocean surface in a head-to-head competition. These proofs of capability, which will determine the winner, will take place at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility (OHSMETT) in New Jersey. The top team that demonstrates the ability to recover oil on the sea-water surface at the highest oil recovery rate (ORR) and recovery efficiency (RE) will win the $1 million Grand Purse. Second place will win $300,000 and third place will win $100,000 in purses.

Competition Benefactor
Wendy Schmidt is President of The Schmidt Family Foundation which strives to advance the development of clean energy and support the wiser use of natural resources. She is founder of the foundation's 11th Hour Project and of Climate Central. Her other work, at ReMain Nantucket, focuses on generating a model for smart community downtown development on the island. With her husband, Eric Schmidt, Wendy created the Schmidt Marine Science Research Institute in 2009 to provide future opportunities aboard research vessels for urgent ocean studies. Wendy earned an M.A. in Journalism from The University of California at Berkeley, and a B.A. magna cum laude from Smith College. She serves on the boards of the Natural Resources Defense Council, The California Academy of Sciences, GRIST, and The Nantucket Dreamland Foundation.

Supporting Organizations
Alliance for Climate Protection, Global Green, Monterey Bay Research Institute, Natural Resources Defense Coucil, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

About the X PRIZE Foundation
The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. In 2004, the Foundation captured world headlines when Burt Rutan, backed by Microsoft Cofounder Paul Allen, built and flew the world's first private vehicle to space to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The Foundation has since launched the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, and the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The Foundation is creating and conducting competitions in four prize groups: Exploration (Space and Oceans), Life Sciences, Energy and Environment, Education and Global Development. The Foundation is widely recognized as the leader in fostering innovation through competition. Note to Media: Photos, film, and transcripts from the National Press Club announcement can be found by visiting and after 4:00 PM (ET) on July 29. Please contact the press office for additional questions and needs.

CONTACT: Ian Murphy: 310.689.6397 (

Press Office: 310.741.4883(


To register for the Competition, Teams must complete the Registration Application here. Teams must complete the Registration Application by 11:59 PM Los Angeles time, February15, 2011.

Completing your Team Registration consists of the following process:

1.  Fill out and sign this Registration Application

2.  Pay the $3,500 Registration Fee by visiting the payment page here

3.  To review Submissions Questions, please click here to download a PDF

4.  To review competition overview, please click here to download a PDF

5.  To review and sign the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Pleaseclick here to download a PDF

After each team has officially registered and been accepted, teams will be required to sign and complete the following documents by February 28, 2011: Master Team Agreement and a Release, Waiver and Confidentiality Agreement for each team member (forms will be made available after January 31, 2011).

Teams are not eligible to compete or receive prizes unless and until these documents are provided to the X PRIZE Foundation and accepted by the X PRIZE Foundation, as described below.

The Master Team Agreement, Release, Waiver, and Confidentiality Agreement are going be available to Teams by 30 November 2010.

The X PRIZE Foundation will not refuse Registration unless it determines that a prospective Team:

(i)   lacks the understanding of the financial or technical means required to present a viable entry;

(ii)   is not or will not remain an Eligible Entity;

(iii)   is not likely to comply with the terms of the Master Team Agreement; or

(iv)   is likely to disrupt relationships with the other Teams, sponsors, or otherwise unreasonably endanger the administration of the Competition or related activities.

Registration materials, including the Registration Form, the Master Team Agreement, and the Registration Fee, will be reviewed by the X PRIZE Foundation for completeness and for compliance with the principles and rules of the Competition using all available information. The X PRIZE Foundation shall attempt to issue an acceptance or rejection of each Registration within 14 days after receipt of the complete Registration materials. The X PRIZE Foundation may pose additional questions or requests for clarification to supplement the Registration materials as part of its evaluation. All rejection or acceptance decisions by the X PRIZE Foundation shall be final and it its sole and absolute discretion. If a Team’s Registration is rejected, the submitting Team may reapply for Registration prior to the Registration deadline. The Registration application may only be resubmitted once. All sections of the Registration application must be completed in English.

Until a Registration Application has been officially accepted, neither the X PRIZE Foundation nor the applicant shall make public declaration of registration in the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE.

Registration for this competition does not prevent registration in any other X PRIZE, X CHALLENGE, or Competition conducted by the X PRIZE Foundation unless explicitly noted in the rules for that competition. However, no special consideration shall be granted to Teams entering multiple competitions. A completed Application does not guarantee the acceptance of your participation in the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE, and the X PRIZE Foundation expressly reserves the right to deny any application to participate in the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE for any reason.


Teams must submit the Registration Fee at the time of applying to register.  The Registration Fee will be $3,500 USD, payable in U.S. Dollars only. The Registration Fee shall not be refundable once the X PRIZE Foundation has approved a Team’s Registration and received a signed, unrevised Master Team Agreement from the Team. If the X PRIZE Foundation has not received a signed, unrevised Master Team Agreement from the Team by 11:59 PM Los Angeles time, 15 February 2011, the X PRIZE Foundation will refund any Registration Fee submitted by Team according to standard business payment terms.  The Registration Fee is payable online only through the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE website (

Registration Application

The following information will be used by the X PRIZE Foundation to identify and promote the applicant for registration in the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. Additionally, the data may be used to educate the public about the competition. Fields marked with an ^ shall not be publicly listed. Proprietary information, including any intellectual property the applicant desires to keep confidential, must be clearly marked as such. The Team is required to make best efforts to complete these fields with current information, and shall keep the X PRIZE Foundation aware of any changes or updates to these fields. The X PRIZE Foundation reserves the right to deny an application for insufficient information. 

Q. What are the Rules and Timeline of this X CHALLENGE?

The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE is a two-phase competition.

    Phase 1: Team Registration and Concept Evaluation Phase

    Timeline: October 27, 2010 through April 20, 2011

    Teams submit their technology concepts, via the X PRIZE website, to an independent judging panel.

    Submissions will be judged on:  

    • Feasibility of technological approach and commercialization plan;
    • Approximate cost of the approach;
    • Ability to have no negative environmental impact;
    • Scalability of and ability to deploy technology;
    • Scalability of approach; and
    • Demonstration of the highest oil recovery rate (ORR) and highest Recovery Efficiency (RE).  

    Based on the judges’ expert evaluations, a set of Finalist Teams will be selected and invited to compete in a head-to-head competition at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility (OHSMETT).

      Phase 2: Team Demonstration and Judging Phase

      Timeline: April 21, 2011 through October 30, 2011

      All Team Finalists will be notified and provided the opportunity to test their approaches during a practice phase at the OHMSETT facility.  Following the practice phase, Team Finalists will move to the head-to-head demonstration phase at OHMSETT. Teams will be measured on their ability recover oil on the seawater surface at the highest Oil Recovery Rate (ORR)  and the highest Recovery Efficiency (RE).  The top performer will receive a $1 Million Grand Prize; the second place performer will receive $300,000 and the third place performer will receive $100,000.