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Special mats, booms could help with Gulf oil spill
Hall County-based company trying to send product to workers
Shane Minish, chemical technician at MyCelx Technologies in Gainesville, hangs up large freshly treated sheets Monday afternoon that were used to capture oil at the Woodsmill Road warehouse.

Officials at a Gainesville company say they have products that could help clean up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico — they just need to get in touch with the right people to get the products there.

Connie Mixon, CEO of MyCelx Technologies in Gainesville, says red tape has impeded efforts to bring their specialized bioremediation products to the Gulf. Only recently, Mixon got in touch with a Mobile, Ala., company contracted to spray oil dispersant there.

“At least now I feel like I have got a path to get the products into the Gulf,” said Mixon, a Gainesville resident. “I’m confident that we are going to get this done because this guy seems to have the right contacts within BP, and he’s there and he’s done contract work with them.”

MyCelx uses a specialized molecule in a couple of different products to help clean up oil spills, recently cleaning up oil in Lake Wabuman in Alberta, Canada. The company’s products also were used after Hurricane Katrina and have been used in ports, marinas and even at oil platforms in open waters.

Mixon said the company makes mats and oil containment booms that are much more efficient than other booms used when oil washes to shore. The floating booms are made to skim oil off the top of the water.

“We have an array of spill products that were made for this situation,” she said. They contain a molecule invented by Haluk Alper, the company’s president, after the Exxon Valdez spilled off the coast of Alaska in 1989. That spill inspired Alper to look for something that would contain the oil and keep it from sinking to the bottom of the ocean, Mixon said.

When the company’s mats come into contact with the water’s surface, “it skims (the oil) off — actually completely absorbs it off the face of the water surface,” she said.

The oil is bonded to the mat and doesn’t waterlog, Mixon added. And because the products help absorb oil and cover more surface area than traditional booms, they would be critical in removing oil floating on the surface of the ocean.

The nontoxic yellow mat is a polymer made with food-grade material, measuring 10 feet by 6 feet.

“It’s so frustrating when I see some other technology on the other news stations, and I know their technology and I know it doesn’t work as well as ours,” Mixon said.

Alper, the inventor of the MyCelx molecule, co-founded MyCelx Technologies with Gainesville businessman John Mansfield Sr. in 1994. Mansfield is the former owner of Mansfield Oil.

On Monday, BP said it was siphoning some of the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, but worries escalated about the ooze reaching a major ocean current that could carry it through the Florida Keys and up the East Coast. BP PLC Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Monday on NBC’s “Today” that a mile-long tube was funneling a little more than 42,000 gallons of crude a day from a blown-out well into a tanker ship.

That would be about a fifth of the 210,000 gallons the company and the U.S. Coast Guard have estimated are gushing out each day, though scientists who have studied video of the leak say it could be much bigger and even BP acknowledges there’s no way to know for sure how much oil there is.

The containment efforts on the surface are targeting large areas of oil using vacuum recovery systems. The Gainesville company hopes to have a hand in that, too.

“We are going to team up with people down there to put treatment trains on barges, and that way they will use (a) vacuum recovery system,” Mixon said, “where they vacuum it in, treat it and pump it over.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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