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Ocean of dreams? Kevin Costner helps out with oil cleanup

BP’s getting some help from a surprising source: Kevin Costner.

As efforts to contain the 114 million gallons of oil that have gushed into the Gulf dragged on with only partial success, BP has ordered 32 centrifuge machines from Ocean Therapy Solutions, a company backed by Costner. The centrifuges, which weigh in at about 4,000 pounds each, suck in oil and water and spin them at high speeds. Because they have different densities, the fluids are separated, the oil is trapped, and clean salt water is released back into the ocean.

So what does the “Field of Dreams” actor have to do with all of this? In interviews Monday with “Good Morning America” and CNN, Costner explained he was inspired to create an invention of this type after seeing the damage from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. He contributed more than $20 million to create it, and his brother Dan, a scientist, created the actual device. They teamed up with a former Department of Energy employee and joined forces with Ocean Therapy Solutions, a California-based company with a hub in Louisiana, and created their first machines about a decade ago.

The company says its most advanced device can clean water at a rate of 200 gallons per minute.

Last week Costner told a congressional committee, "It may seem an unlikely scenario that I'm the one delivering this technology at this moment in time, but from where I'm sitting, it is equally inconceivable that these machines are not already in place."

On its website, Ocean Therapy Solutions says, “Oil and water don't mix. Let us separate it for you.”

Read an amusing yet informative Q&A from Gawker about how the centrifuges work here.

-Elizabeth Chuck, msnbc.com