East Texan invents oil cleanup machine

By Sara Story - bio | email

As Tropical Storm Bonnie fizzles along the Gulf Coast, crews are making their way back to site of the oil well. Anticipating the storm, cleanup efforts were put on hold, including one East Texan who has been on the front lines of the cleanup.

Jimmy Jones of Kilgore created a skimming device that is capable of scooping up 7,000 barrels of oil a day.

Jones is confidant when it comes to his inventions, and has a yard full of projects. "I build a lot of stuff," said Jones. His latest contraption is a device that cleans up oil in the Gulf.

Jones was approached by a company in Mississippi that was building a 50 by 90 foot barge to clean up oil, but  they didn't have the equipment to separate oil from the water. "They said, 'Can you do it?' I said, 'Yes, I can do it.' They said, 'What equipment do we need?' I said, 'We need a separator.' They said, 'We want one now.' I said, 'Well, there ain't none available,'"said Jones.

However, in less than a week, Jones tracked down the parts, assembled it at his shop in Kilgore, and hauled the adapted separator to Louisiana. What started as a simple barge, has been turned into an oil scooping machine.

"There wasn't no doubt in my mind we could get a job if we had something to pick the oil up with," said Jones. He says he and the men he works with were the first cleanup crew to launch a commercial skimmer. They spent $800,000 out of their own pockets, but BP now pays them for their work. "Everybody's trying to do it. Everybody's getting in the game. But we beat them to the punch," said Jones.

His efforts have been put on hold twice by storms, and Jones says he's ready to get back to the Gulf.

Copyright 2010 KLTV. All rights reserved.