They’ve been waiting for weeks, struggling to get the proper officials’ attention.
They’ve traveled to the Gulf, hopeful that demonstrations would spark interest.
And now, all systems are go.
After a week of full-scale demonstrations in the Gulf of Mexico, executives from MyCelx Technologies, a Gainesville-based company that creates oil removal products, have returned from their trip with permission to begin working in Alabama’s Perdido Bay, said Mark Mixon, MyCelx’s senior vice president of business development.
Monday, the company sent its first shipment of large mats featuring the special MyCelx molecule to the Gulf. The molecule allows oil to stick to the 10-foot-long mats and removes the substance from the water. The mat can hold 35 to 40 pounds of oil.
"It has the ability to permanently and instantly remove the oil," said Connie Mixon, MyCelx’s CEO. "The oil is never released back, which is the case with other technologies."
Mark Mixon said he wasn’t sure how much of the product will be used or for how long, but he said the company could be asked to do more once officials see how the technology works.
"They’re looking very strategically at where to place it to get the most effectiveness," he said.
And MyCelx — whose specialized molecule was created by the company’s president in response to Alaska’s Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 — will be ready if it needs to expand its Gulf operation.
"We can easily scale up more product because we’re not starting from zero, which is the way a lot of the other ones are," Connie Mixon said.
She said part of the reason it took so long for the company to get an answer from officials in the Gulf was the sheer volume of proposals in BP’s "suggestion box."
"It would be nice to say there’s a silver bullet that does everything, but it’s many, many people doing many, many activities," Mark Mixon said.
Last week’s demonstrations showed off the product to people such as Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, and Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. BP officials and representatives from the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, also saw the product in action.
But it was Saturday’s presentation in Perdido Bay that sealed the deal.
"We basically deployed some of the mats in the actual environment where it was going to be used, and the appropriate officials saw it and were able to pursue us further," Mark Mixon said.
The mats flow with the tides and are placed behind booms, which are the more traditional method of containing oil spills.
Connie Mixon said the MyCelx mats are five to 10 times more cost effective, based on the amount of oil removed, than some of the other products used for the spill.
The mats are most effective against the oil sheen, thin oil layers that often have a rainbow-like luminescence, and tar balls, which are silver dollar-sized globs of peanut butter-colored petroleum, Mark Mixon said.
He called the many different facets of the oil spill "overwhelming."
"It’s very dynamic," he said. "And they’re trying to find the best solution for the various problems they’re having."
He said the company is thankful to finally get started with its operations.
"We really feel like we can help," he said. "And it’s just been a hard time to get enough people to see that the product really does work, and it does work effectively."