It's all gone to the dogs

ACCORDING to a report from Norwegian consultancy Sintef, Shell could be interested in using sniffer dogs to locate oil spills under ice in the Arctic.
It's all gone to the dogs It's all gone to the dogs It's all gone to the dogs It's all gone to the dogs It's all gone to the dogs

Shell is embarking on an ambitious drilling program in the seas northwest of Alaska and while Shell has denied it is planning to use the dogs to find oil spills, it did confirm to The Guardian that it had commissioned research into the use of canines.

The research by the Norwegian consultancy was paid for by Shell and a host of other oil and gas companies, with results showing two border collies and a dachshund were able to pick up the scent of oil 5km downwind of a spill.

The research also found that the dogs held up well from long flights, temperatures reaching minus 40 degrees Celsius and bumpy snowmobile journeys.

As a bonus, the study also found the dogs were able to keep focus on the job at hand and were unlikely to go haring off to chase polar bears or seals.

The revelation that Shell has put some money into the research has drawn jibes from environmental groups concerned not enough has been done to prevent an environmental disaster should a spill occur where the nearest coastguard outpost is 1000 miles away.

"The idea that small dogs can track leaking oil deep under the Arctic pack ice in the middle of winter is absurd," Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace Ben Ayliffe said.

"The fact they are paying good money to seriously use this as an option shows how much they are scrambling around for a solution."

The UK paper quoted Shell spokesman Curtis Smith saying the company had done additional research on oil-sniffing dogs since the 2009 study but it was "nothing major".

The company's oil spill response plan, approved by the interior department last month, calls for a fleet of vessels to be on standby at all times, as well as for the construction of a special capping system that would be able to capture and store up to 80,000 barrels of oil a day.

"Shell and others are looking mainly at technology like advanced radars [and] satellite to detect oil under ice," Smith wrote in an email.

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