MRO Magazine

Optical detector to provide wide aerial inspection service for pipeline gas leaks

Edmonton, AB -- Breault Research Organization Inc. (BRO) has reached an agreement to provide key test and service-l...

Edmonton, AB — Breault Research Organization Inc. (BRO) has reached an agreement to provide key test and service-line equipment to Synodon Inc. of Edmonton, Alta., providing the first optical service system for wide-range aerial inspection of gas pipelines.

Synodon has awarded BRO a contract to fabricate, assemble and test a proto-flight version of Synodon’s realSens radiometer designed to identify gas pipeline leaks using correlation spectroscopy. Two previous BRO contracts with Synodon called for completion of detailed design and analyses of the realSens radiometer.

“After functionality of the prototype realSens device is verified,” said Synodon CEO Adrian Banica, “Synodon intends to subcontract to BRO the fabrication of up to 25 more units over the next five years.”

According to Synodon, realSens will be targeted at companies operating natural gas pipeline networks. Unlike existing services, realSens will be able to cover approximately 100 km each hour and detect early-stage leaks before they become problematic. Earlier technologies took in areas no more than one-quarter the size that realSens does.


The new generation of gas detectors, such as Synodon’s, exploits basic wave properties of light. Gas emitted into the atmosphere carries a distinct signature of molecules, which absorbs a specific set of light wavelengths and no others, vibrating like the plucked strings of a guitar to a unique sound and tune.

This new generation of detection systems typically measures reflected solar radiation at wavelengths absorbed by only a specific set of molecules, such as the gas methane or other components to natural gas. If no such gas is in the air, the solar radiation maintains its power. If the specific molecular tune is present, it absorbs some of the solar energy, thereby weakening the return signal and setting an alarm indicating a leak

Synodon Inc. has worked with the science of correlation spectroscopy (as developed by the Department of Physics at the University of Toronto and Synodon researchers) and existing technologies from a Canadian Space Agency funded development called MOPITT (Measurement of Pollution in the Troposphere). The MOPITT instrument was launched on NASA’s earth observing satellite called TERRA in December 1999 and has performed as expected since then.