THE newest employee of a gas network is putting his nose to good work by sniffing out gas leaks.

Midge the spaniel is a police-trained sniffer dog, and has found new employment with Northern Gas Network working across the North East.

His uncanny sense of smell has had a remarkable hit rate across the North East over the past couple of months, with Midge sniffing out leaks in Morpeth, Newcastle, Darlington and South Shields, among other areas.

By finding the exact source of a gas leak, Midge prevents engineers from having to dig exploratory holes, which take time and cause traffic delays.

Northern Gas Networks engineer Alan Walker recently used Midge after water found its way into a gas main on Estoril Street, Darlington. The problem was causing low gas pressure to customers' homes.

Mr Walker said: "We brought Midge in, and he found the source of the problem almost immediately, allowing us to dig down and get the water out of the gas pipe.

"It's fair to say we were all a bit sceptical at first, but now we've seen Midge in action, we are believers! We've made him a fully-fledged member of the team, and are looking forward to working with him on future jobs."

Northern Gas Networks Site Manager, Dean Fuller, recently rang for Midge to sniff out a gas leak at Highmoor, Morpeth.

Mr Fuller said: "It was a recurring leak that we had been struggling to pinpoint for several weeks. We'd been having to use a lot of people power to monitor gas levels, and make sure everything was safe. We decided to try Midge, and couldn't believe it when he found the leak right away. He went to it like he was laser guided!"

Midge’s handler, Steve Foster, a former police dog handler, said: “Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, believed to be around 5,000 times better than humans.

“Midge loves working with Northern Gas Networks, and is out on the network almost every week, helping the engineers to find and fix gas leaks.”

Northern Gas Networks (NGN) keep 2.7 million homes and businesses cooking on gas, through a vast underground pipe network.

As well as providing a safe and reliable service to customers in North East, Northern Cumbria and much of Yorkshire, the company works to develop green and sustainable energy solutions, fit for a low-carbon future.