Application of Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) to Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring

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  • Monitoring of environmental conditions in and around oil sands developments has been underway for years. However, recent reviews have indicated the need for a more comprehensive, scientifically-rigourous and transparent monitoring program and have provided recommendations for design and oversight. This report presents a comprehensive review of industrial applications of an emerging environmental monitoring technology called Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN). This technology consists of a series of individual wireless nodes that have the capacity to measure different micro-climatic as well as other chemical variables at costs that are significantly cheaper that current wired systems. This review describes monitoring in four main sectors: agricultural, environmental, forest, and industrial. The report reviews publications over the last 13-years; none of the case studies are from Alberta. The report also provides a description of the establishment of a new Alberta project in which a WSN is used to monitor environmental conditions at a coal mine reclamation site. The WSN is installed at Coal Valley Mine (CVM, Central Alberta), and it represents a collaborative project between the Centre for Earth Observation Sciences (CEOS) at the University of Alberta, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, and CVM. The system, logistical needs, and the data management system used to obtain, visualize and analyze the environmental data currently collected at CVM are described. Given current environmental monitoring needs, plus the large areal extent of the oil sands region, wireless sensor networks have the potential to support traditional monitoring networks. The federal/provincial oil sands environmental monitoring implementation plan specifically mentions the use of remote sensing tools to enhance the monitoring system. More work is required to develop additional sensors specific to chemicals of concern in the oil sands and implement this technology in regional monitoring.

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    Attribution 3.0 International