Satellites take sustainability to new heights

Environment has become really important for companies so that they regularly issue environmental audits of their Corporate Sustainable Development (CSD) activities. They need accurate and timely information on the state of the environment, which Earth Observation (EO) from space can provide.

Under the project, Hatfield Consultants, an environmental consultancy firm based in Canada, worked with Shell Canada and Albian Sands Energy to provide EO-based geo-information to support environmental management and monitoring related to the exploitation of their Athabasca oil sands located in the north of the province of Alberta.
According to the Sustainable Development Integration Manager at Shell Canada, the satellite images present clear, accessible visuals, provide objective information on development and eventual reclamation of their oil sands leases and help them in their reporting on environmental performance.

Eyes in the sky

EO provides objective coverage across both space and time, EO images show the world through a wide-enough frame so that complete large-scale phenomena can be observed with great accuracy. Satellites also remain in place for long periods, making them able to highlight environmental changes occurring gradually.

The focus of the satellite data used in this project was to help quantify habitat change in various ways and to understand how a habitat may be influenced by the oil sand operations.

ESA’s Envisat satellite acquired eight Full Resolution images with its optical instrument, Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS), covering the entire northern oil sand region, from 2004 to 2006. Envisat’s Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument acquired three alternating polarisation images, one in 2004 and two in 2006. SPOT-5 acquired five multi-spectral images of the same region, an area of approximately 18 000 sq km, in 2006.

Knowledge sharing

The EO information is not only valuable for corporate environmental management purposes, but can also provide local residents with unbiased information regarding the impact of developments in their communities.

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