For some time now, Vattenfall has been researching the use of sniffer dogs to locate leaks in the district heating network. The first results are promising and we are now looking at how detection with dogs can be even more efficient, so that the current technical methods of detection can possibly be replaced.
Mark Spithorst, technical specialist pipes at Vattenfall, came up with the idea of using sniffer dogs. Together with Scent Imprint for Dogs (S.I.F.D.), a Dutch company that provides training in the field of detection with dogs, he set up a special district heat leakage training. The dogs were trained on the smell of demineralized water and the smell of pur. Demi water is released when a district heating pipe has a leak and leaks water. The smell of pur is released when water from the outside enters the jacket of the district heating pipe, this affects the insulating pur layer, which then gives off an odor.
There are currently three dogs trained. Harry and Nemo (pictured below) are specialized in detecting demi water and Juro is a specialist in smelling pur. When the dog finds a leak, it sits down and points to the spot with its nose.
Mark Spithorst: “Normally we locate leaks with a thermal imaging camera. We focus on the land and on homes. This focus on homes in particular sometimes leads to reactions from residents who come to ask us what we are doing. Now we also get reactions to tracking with dogs, but they are mainly very enthusiastic and people find it interesting to see and hear what we are doing.”
Wesley Visscher of S.I.F.D.: “The dogs have been specially chosen for the pleasure they have to work. They are very enthusiastic and have a great time. Of course we make sure they don't work too hard by letting them rest regularly and using the dogs alternately.”
The dogs are now only used in Almere. The aim is to make detection with dogs so efficient that they can soon be used in more places.