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10 Celebrities Who Branched Into Business

Stocks in this article: BP KO

Kevin Costner
Many livelihoods were ruined by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that resulted from an explosion at BP's (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

But one famous face benefited from the disaster. It was Kevin Costner, star of the infamous box office flop Waterworld, whose company played a role in cleaning up the aquatic devastation.

Costner was among the environmental experts and engineers called upon to testify before Congress at a June 2010 hearing convened by the U.S. House of Representatives' Science and Technology Committee.

At the hearing, he spoke about the $20 million he has invested over more than a decade in an oil-water separator developed by Louisiana-based Ocean Therapy Solutions.

The equipment offered by Costner's company, now called Blue Water Planet Solutions has roots in centrifuge technology dating back to the 1800s. The company sums it up: "By spinning two fluids of different densities within a rotating container designed and built using this patented technology, the lighter fluid is forced toward the center of the rotor." This allows dense, viscous oil to be removed from much lighter water.

"I come before you as a discouraged U.S. citizen and an entrepreneur with a partial solution to the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf," Costner said at the hearing. "Seventeen years ago I purchased a licensed patent for a centrifugal force oil-water separator from the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory. Today that technology is the most effective and efficient tool for cleaning up oil spills that you've probably never heard of. Despite its proven demonstrations in front of oil industry and government leaders, the technology sat passively on shelves for more than 10 years, powerless to make right the oil spills that continued and will continue to occur."

Beyond disasters such as the Gulf spill, Costner pointed out that "smaller spills that happen around the world every day." He cited estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 gallons are spilled in a typical year. For every 1 million gallons pumped from wells, it is estimated that 20 gallons will end up in the oceans. "At our current rate of oil production that means the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every seven months," he said.

Roughly a year before the BP spill, Costner co-founded WestPac Resources to perfect the centrifuge technology (He already owns Costner Industries, also known as the Costner In Nevada Corp.) That led to the creation of Ocean Therapy Solutions and its efforts to produce oil-water output of less than 15 parts per million, the threshold named by government agencies and private companies alike.

BP went on to enter into a $16 million contract with Ocean Therapy Solutions for its technology.

Costner is embroiled in a lawsuit filed by actor/investor Stephen Baldwin and investor Spyridon Contogouris, who claim he hid negotiations with BP to lease 32 pieces of equipment while buying out their shares. Costner has countersued.

In a far different arena, Costner is also owner of the Midnight Star casino in Deadwood, S.D. Sporting a theme based on his western Silverado, the casino features a mini-museum of the actor's movie-related memorabilia and wardrobes.

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