The Tekscent pipeline leak detection system is a
blend of 20th century chemical knowledge and animal training that dates
back to the earliest days of human civilization.
A dogs sensitive nose can detect odors with an
accuracy that far surpasses sophisticated oilfield laboratory equipment.
Environmental scientist Ron Quaife 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 ruptures.
The exact formula, as spelled out in the Imperial Oil
patent application, "contains dimethylsulphide in the range of about 0.1
to about 15 volume percent. Preferably, the composition contains
dimethylsulphide in the range of about 0.1 to about 7.0 volume percent,
and most preferably in the range of about 0.1 to about 0.3 volume
percent." The odorant was also mixed with other chemicals, in varying
formulas, to help ensure it reached the target area of the pipeline.
Dimethylsulphide (also spelled as dimethyl sulphide),
has a distinct rotting vegetable odor at higher concentrations, and can
be detected by dogs at much lower concentrations. The chemical migrates
upward through the soil around buried pipelines, and is also relatively
insoluble in water.
Specific field trials confirmed that trained dogs
detected leaks in pipelines, including some at depths more than 3.5
metres below the surface, and used "specific behavior patterns where
they have found the highest concentration of the odorant." The dogs also
detected leaks as small as three mm (0.125 inches) in field trials.
The Tekscent system has been licensed for worldwide
use by Makor K-9 International, which trains dogs at special facilities
in Canada, United States, England, Czech Republic and the Philippines.
The dogs have been used to detect pipeline leaks in a number of
countries around the world.
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