It is apparently just a video camera connected to a monitor, but it is one of the many high tech fruits of 24 years of labour by a Canadian research and development company known as INO that specializes in using light for sensing, imaging and detecting.
“Any kind of thing that you need to characterize – maybe fluid types, gas types, species of gas, that kind of thing – we have technology that is capable of doing that,” said Arne Donovan, who works in business development for INO in Western Canada, during a stop at the Global Petroleum Show (GPS) in Calgary, Alberta on June 12-14.
The camera in question is actually a thermal imager.
“It measures heat,” Donovan explained.
“If an object is alive, it’s generating heat,” he continued. “So, if you stood on front of that, all the dark spots are warm. … And the cooler spots will be lighter.”
One application of that technology is civilian search and rescue missions, but it is also similar to technology used to detect fugitive emissions in oil and gas operations.
Donovan stressed that INO’s product is unique, however.
“This is a camera that INO has built,” he said. “We specially build a lot of different cameras for [our] clients.”
Increasingly, those clients are including companies in the energy sector.
“We’re starting to do a lot more,” said Donovan. “We’re doing some work for a company right now that I can’t divulge the name of. But picture building an information superhighway coming out of an oil well.
“This would be full of data, information related to characteristics downhole, fluid types, gas types, pressure, temperature, all the vital signs that someone drilling a well would be interested in.”
INO is working on another project with a major Canadian pipeline company to measure fugitive emissions from the turbines that push the natural gas through their transmission networks.
Donovan describes the not-for-profit company – which is funded by the Canadian government, the Quebec government, research and development contracts and licenses to use their technology – as the research and development “back office for the Canadian industry.”
Still, it doesn’t seem to be very well known.
“I think INO is a Canadian treasure that really just started to come into its own,” said Donovan.
“Because we’ve only in the last four years … begun to market ourselves. Prior to that, we’ve been principally a research and development organization with no outbound evangelism, no outbound business development.
“We need to get the word out,” he continued. “The fact of the matter is public relations or marketing is doing good work and telling the world what you do. Because if you do good work and you don’t tell anybody about what you’re doing, who really cares in the end?”
That is partly why Brad Holinski has been brought into the fold.
A graduate student in the field of biomedical engineering, Holinski found a partner in INO for his work on helping patients with spinal cord injuries walk again.
Holinski was impressed by the multidisciplinary approach of the company.
“They draw on different specialties,” said Holinski.
“For instance, biomedical and electrical and chemical, and it forms an interdisciplinary team to kind of problem solve these group projects when INO … takes on a task.
“I kind of came onboard that way,” he continued. “And then they said they want to expand west and develop all their contacts out here. And so, hopefully, I will be able to help with that. I know a lot of research groups in Calgary-Edmonton through my work. And then, hopefully, we’ll get the word out for INO for biomedical applications, as well as energy and oil and gas.”
A presence at GPS was part of achieving that goal.
“In the oil and gas space,” said Donovan, “we’re just starting to really test our wings here.”