Belfast Telegraph

NI investors funding critical for clean up in Gulf of Mexico

By Symon Ross

Northern Ireland investors are playing a major role in funding a new product that could help clean up the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

US Defense-approved scientists at AVS in Ohio working with UK-based renewable engineering company Ultra Green have created a new system that removes surface oil down to five metres.

Ultra Green has developed a boat rig device that it estimates can soak up 25,000 gallons of oil a day. It forecasts that if 100 boats were installed with the kit, 90% of the surface oil threatening the American coast could be removed within six weeks.

The first clean up ship, a customised shrimp boat, has been funded entirely by Northern Ireland investors who are also shareholders in fire safety system developer Lightstep Technologies.

The boat will be launched at the end of this week.

Nicholas Watts, who organised the funding, is a director of Lightstep.

He said the investors knew it was a good business opportunity as well as a chance to help people.

“Yes we are there to make money for ourselves but on the other hand if we’re able to help provide a piece of kit that will help bring not only this environmental tragedy but any that might happen in the future under control, then I think we’ve done something really good in the world.”

Scientists from BP and the White House have examined the technology and Ultra Green are hopeful they will come on board to fund more boats once the first one is in the water and working.

Ultra Green’s chairman Antony Blakey said the Northern Ireland investment kept its plans on track and the company would repay |investors’ faith by basing some manufacturing of the kits in the province if the venture proves successful.

He said: “We worked with our American partners and have a logistics plan and an engineering plan that can deliver before the hurricane season hits.

“We used all our spare resources on this and huge engineering plan. Then Nicholas stepped in and said let’s find the funds to speed this up before it is too late.

“The White House and BP are evaluating the science and engineering but obviously their processes take time. Now we can bypass everything and simply build the solution to show the world”.

He added: “Meanwhile we have employed huge American contractor Peak Ohio to build rigs in time and they have cleared their factory.

“Later when this turns into a world beating spill clear up safety system we will show our gratitude to local people by manufacturing in Northern |Ireland.”

Ultra Green is now recruiting local teams of marine engineers and transport teams to transport equipment and fit out the rigs.

The recovered oil is classed as “salvage of the sea” and under international law is the property of whoever lifts it out of the water, meaning proceeds will be used to pay for the boats.

Some money will also be put into a charitable fund to help fishermen and other people whose livelihoods have been hurt by the oil spill.

For more information Nicholas Watts can be contacted on

Belfast Telegraph