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Ron Quaife

Ron QuaifeIn 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 of pipelines.

Mechanical methods for detecting leaks don’t work for all pipeline sizes, and pipelines with bends and sharp angles will also stymie devices sent through the pipe to detect leaks.

Quaife’s research team learned that the most affordable, portable and scent sensitive detector in the world was man’s best friend, the dog.

A dog’s 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 dog’s 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 ruptures.

Dogs trained to detect the Tekscent are now being used in many countries around the world.

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