GN gases up to do more snowmobile tests

Test snowmobilers will make 1,000-mile trip

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DENISE RIDEOUT

After a first round of tests on Baffin and Kivalliq fuel supplies turned up few answers, the Nunavut government is now conducting a second set of tests to figure out if the fuel is contaminated.

The new phase of testing began April 19 and is expected to give hunters, snowmobilers and the Nunavut government a better idea if the gas is to blame for the abnormally high number of snowmobile break-downs throughout the Baffin and Kivalliq this winter.

Since the fuel supply arrived last year, hunters and snowmobilers have run into many difficulties with their machines.

Last month an analysis of the gas showed the regions’ supply is missing a key ingredient that helps keeps engines clean. It also has a high level of polar material, a compound that is likely causing deposits and gum formations in the gas.

But there was never any real proof the problems with the gas were directly responsible for damaged engines, pistons, carburetors and crank shafts in snowmobiles.

Peter Kattuk, the minister responsible for petroleum products for the GN, ordered a major test with two snowmobiles, one with gas from this year’s supply and one with gas containing the ingredient that keeps engines clean.

The snowmobiles, pulling qamutiks, drove 800 miles from Rankin Inlet to Baker Lake.

“With the two machines, there wasn’t much difference,” Kattuk said in an interview. “It doesn’t give us a good ground to talk about the gas.”

“The treated gas was a little cleaner. The untreated gas was a little dirtier. With that one there were a little more hydrocarbons on the cylinders and the pistons.”

But the difference wasn’t enough to provide any conclusive answers.

Now, the two snowmobiles are making another trip. Their pistons were replaced and two hunters left on April 19 enroute to Schultz Lake, near Baker Lake. The snowmobiles will travel more than 1,000 miles.

“This test is longer and it’s more distance,” Kattuk said.

This time, one snowmobile will use gas from the Baffin supply and the other will use gas from the Kitikmeot supply. Gas for the Baffin region is shipped from New York, while the Kitikmeot gas comes from a supply in Alberta.

“There seems to be no problems from the gas in that area,” Kattuk said of the Kitikmeot supply.

Once the test wraps up on April 29, results from that test and the initial test will be combined to create a final report.

If it turns out the gas supply is contaminated, it isn’t clear who will be liable for the snowmobile damages: the government or the gas supplier — the Northern Transportation Company Ltd., or NTCL.

This week NTCL issued a press release stating it’s working with the Nunavut government on fuel testing.

“NTCL takes very seriously the concerns of Nunavut snowmobile owners and is committed to cooperate fully with the government of Nunavut as it continues its search for answers into concerns about the gasoline supply in the territory,” it says.

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