Monitoring Procedures for Wellsite, In-Situ Oil Sands and Coal Mine Reclamation in Alberta – December 2014 Update

Nadia Rochdi
J. Zhang
Karl Staenz
X. Yang
D. Rolfson
J. Banting
C. King
R. Doherty
Resource Date:
Page Length

The scope of the Monitoring Procedure for Reclamation in Alberta (MOPRA) project is to develop a geomatics-based monitoring system to support the Government of Alberta’s efforts for monitoring reclamation success. This software will support the decision making process to screen almost all oil and gas wellsites and prioritize those that require immediate intervention allowing an efficient allocation of government resources. Using remote sensing technologies, the following three types of information were pursued: • Baseline maps of the pre-disturbance condition of sites, • Vegetation condition related to species, and canopy structure, and vegetation productivity, and • Temporal change of land condition in reclaimed areas. The project provided the opportunity to assess remote sensing technologies including optical multispectral, hyperspectral and LiDAR, for monitoring vegetation condition in reclaimed wellsites and mine areas. Three study areas were assessed, sampling both wellsites and a coal mine areas, which cover different landscapes including forested, and agricultural areas. A set of land products were developed within this project, including baseline land cover, land-cover change, canopy height, fractional cover, tree species and canopy leaf area index (LAI). In addition, multi-year profiles of vegetation index data were examined to assess vegetation regrowth in wellsites in comparison to undisturbed reference areas. Canopy structure attributes, derived from LiDAR data such as canopy height and fractional cover, were also examined to assess differences in vegetation structure between reclaimed wellsites and regenerated burnt/clear-cut areas. In addition, a reclamation monitoring system, composed of a Remote Sensing Data Processing Toolbox and A Stand- Alone Assessment Tool, was developed. The land products derived from remote sensing data provide information related to some of the landscape and vegetation assessment parameters adopted within the 2010 reclamation criteria document (Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development 2013), such as bare areas, vegetation species, land-use change, canopy height, percent canopy cover and vegetation quantity/quality. The achievements of the MOPRA project have highlighted the benefits that remote sensing technologies can provide in support of reclamation monitoring efforts. Having access to a synoptic view of reclaimed lands at the landscape and regional level is of value for assessing land-use cumulative effects and making decisions in line with an integrated resource management system. While the MOPRA outcomes have shown promise in this direction, there is still a need to test and validate the information extraction approaches adopted as well as the monitoring system developed on various landscapes, such as wetlands, rangelands, agriculture and forested areas. Although, this project has focused on reclaimed wellsites and reclaimed areas within coal mines, the work undertaken can be applicable to natural areas as well as reclaimed lands that have been disturbed by other activities, such as transportation corridors, wind energy, sand and gravel operations, oil sands mines as well as pipelines. To move towards an integration of remote sensing technologies as an operational monitoring tool, the MOPRA monitoring system would require further testing, involving consultants, industry (e.g., oil and gas, coal mine, wind energy farms), and monitoring organizations (Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency – AEMERA) and regulatory agencies (e.g., Alberta Energy Regulator, ESRD).