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Alberta’s oil sands contain the third-largest crude oil reserve in the world, next to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Managing this valuable resource requires responsible development. To support this, the ministry of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) created the Oil Sands Information Portal (osip.alberta.ca). The portal uses geographic information system (GIS) technology to make data about oil sands industry performance easily understood and accessible to the public. ESRI Canada presented the Ministry with an Award of Excellence for this outstanding use of GIS to engage citizens in the development of oil sands within the province.
“We’re honoured to be recognized for the hard work and combined efforts of department staff to make the environmental performance of Alberta’s oil sands open and transparent,” said Honourable Diana McQueen, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. “Our goal is to drive excellence and innovation through good science and informed debate. Having a tool that brings the latest data and research information to our fingertips will help to achieve this.”
“Open and easy access to information enables people to ask informed questions and engage in rational discussion about the oil sands industry performance,” said Alex Miller, president, Esri Canada. “Alberta’s portal promotes an informed assessment of petroleum industry practices and allows the province to take a balanced, science-based approach to development.”
The portal uses Esri’s ArcGIS technology to bring data from numerous sources together in one easy-to-use platform. It consists of a Web map and data library with the most recent information available. The interactive map allows users to quickly select and view information such as details and locations of oil sands operations, regional monitoring stations, surface mining disturbance and reclamation. The searchable data library provides reports, images, links and tables that help users understand environmental trends. Through OSIP, researchers from government, industry and academia can access information on air, water, land and wildlife in downloadable spreadsheets or maps. They can also view pie graphs of greenhouse gas emissions and compare them by industry within the province, across Canada or globally.
“Using GIS was a good approach as our users were becoming more comfortable seeing information presented as maps,” said Heather Carmichael, Manager, Clean Energy, ESRD. “Without this technology, our organization would miss out on a powerful analytic tool. As well, the ministry collects oil sands-related information directly in geospatial format, making it possible to view and analyze the same data internally that’s presented to the public through OSIP.”
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