In the late 1980s, Ron Quaife was working at Imperial Oil as an
environmental scientist when the company spent more than $200,000 trying
to find a pipeline leak near Whitecourt.
In an effort to increase efficiency, Quaife and his research team
began searching for more effective ways to track the leaks. Their motive
was environmental and economic; pipeline leaks can cost thousands of
dollars in lost productivity, and can be extremely hazardous to human
and animal life.
Quaife and his fellow scientists researched and rated 33 different
leak detection methods, including radioactive or chemical tracers,
acoustic signals, dyes, and electromagnetics, only to learn that an
accurate, cost-effective method simply did not exist for certain types
Mechanical methods for detecting leaks dont work for all pipeline
sizes, and pipelines with bends and sharp angles will also stymie
devices sent through the pipe to detect leaks.
Quaifes research team learned that the most affordable, portable and
scent sensitive detector in the world was mans best friend, the dog.
A dogs sensitive nose can detect odors with an accuracy that far
surpasses sophisticated oilfield laboratory equipment. A canine can
detect a specific scent in one part per billion-billion concentration,
while a gas chromatograph machine`s best detection score is 0.2 parts
per million concentration. That means a dogs nose could detect one
sugar crystal in a billion-billion crystals, while a gas chromatograph
could detect a golf-ball sized crystal in a billion-billion crystals.
Quaife and his team used that knowledge to develop Tekscent, a
special chemical odorant that can be pumped into pipelines, and detected
by specially trained dogs when it seeps out of pipeline cracks and
Dogs trained to detect the Tekscent are now being used in many
countries around the world.
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