NANAIMO – Bob Elliott tips a container of engine oil into a plastic container filled with water and black slick spreads to cover the surface.

“Watch this,” he says, as he places a small metal box with a small engine and six-inch disc into the water. He plugs the machine in, and the disc begins to spin, instantly pulling oil from the water.

When we return to the water container 20 minutes later, the water is completely clear, showing no trace of oil. Elliott, owner of Ace Innovative Solutions, demonstrated the most recent prototype of The OX, a specialized oil retrieval product that is in growing demand.

Contained in a small portable box, the OX just needs to be plugged, standing on an easy-to-install bracket. Invented by Elliott himself, the machine is able to remove oil from water to under five parts per million, allowing the spilled oil to be recycled for later use.

Already being used for vessel bilges, storm drains, sumps, and catch basins, the OX is just one of several innovative products created by Elliott to clean up oil spills of all sizes.

Bob Elliot, owner of Ace Innovative Solutions in front of one of his oil cleanup products

Surprisingly, Elliott doesn’t come from an engineering background. Ace Innovative Solution’s owner and innovator started his professional life in the commercial fishing industry.

“I’ve been fishing my whole life, and started fishing commercially when I was 15,” he says. “I caught crab, prawns, salmon, and halibut for a number of years before selling out in 1996.”

After exploring a number of business ventures, Elliott decided to create a new eco-friendly product.

“I had been wanting to create a green business for a while,” he continues. “It was important to find a solution to a common environmental problem that would also work to save companies time and money. About eight years ago, I sold my previous business and began to create our product.”

Easiest Way To Clean Up An Oil Spill

Ace Innovative Solution’s product line came out of years of trial and error as Elliott created and refined numerous prototypes.

The OX hard at work cleaning a contained oil spill

“The first machines were small and used a rope to pick up the oil,” he says. “I played around with that for about three years, then realized that the same material on a disc worked better and created special wipers that wipe off the disc as it rotates.”

After creating a machine that works, Elliott began working with an engineering company in Vancouver, who now manufactures the products.

Today, Ace Innovative Solutions offers eight different products, including a specialized barge and custom-built oil spill response vessel, which are equipped to deal with spills of all sizes, in a variety of aquatic environments. One of these products is a portable dam, which can easily be set up in a river to contain spills. Currently, Elliott and his Vancouver team are working on an ultra-portable, six-inch cleanup machine, which will be even smaller than the OX.

Momentum is now building for Elliott and his company, and Island businesses are rushing to get their hands on his products.

A late-stage prototype of the upcoming Mini Ox, an even more portable oil cleaning machine

This September, a sawmill in the South Island spilled about 200 gallons of hydraulic oil when holes formed in one of its barges. Elliott brought in one of his machines, placing it in an optimal position to take advantage of the tides and wind. The machine cleaned up the entire spill in just eight hours.

“If we didn’t use the machine, they would need to either use pads or phone up marine response,” says Elliott. “The costs for cleanup using those methods is enormous. If they use pads, it becomes hazardous waste, and they need to send them to Hazmat.”

“Now they have a machine on the trailer that will not only clean up the spill on its own but will save the oil that was spilled. After it goes through our machine, there’s less than two per cent water in the oil. We can spin it and take the carbon out, then we have clean oil again.”

As the products pick up steam, Elliott and his wife are looking forward to hitting the road, promoting and selling the product at trade shows and events throughout North America.