What is Mobile Scanning's Impact on Oil Sands?
Chris Tucker was born in the oil patch. So were his brothers, his mom and his dad. He has lost count of the number of oil rigs on the farm he grew up on in Alberta, Canada. He has performed surveying work for Exxon in Chad and Cameroon. And he started his own surveying company focused, in part, on the oil and gas industry.
So if anyone can bring some specifics about Alberta’s Athabasca oil sands to Europe, where political tension on the topic runs high, it’s Tucker, president of SarPoint Engineering in Calgary. He will be sharing his expertise during his breakout session, “Alberta Oil Sands: A Brief History and How VMX Systems May Impact the Future,” at the Riegl LiDAR 2013 International Airborne, Mobile, Terrestrial and Industrial User Conference, to be held June 25-27 in Vienna, Austria.
“I thought getting some smart facts out about for how the oil sands operate would be good for anybody to understand a bit more and show some of our projects,” Tucker said.
Tucker’s companies have been using Riegl products for nearly a decade. In fact, SarPoint Engineering, founded in 2011 when Tucker’s Point Geomatics merged with Robert Radovanovic’s Sarpi Ltd., was the first company in North America to own a Riegl VMX-450 Mobile Scanning System.
The VMX-450 consists of two Riegl VQ-450 scanners on a mounted platform accompanied by a GPS-INS and up to six digital cameras or video equipment. Multiple cameras enable a 360-degree view. At 1.1 million measurements per second, the VMX-450 captures high-resolution 3D data at highway speeds. “It’s truly an astonishing piece of equipment. It works miraculously well,” Tucker said.
Tucker has been sold on Riegl products since buying a model 420 long-range scanner in about 2005. “It’s been absolutely flawless,” he said. “When it came time for SarPoint to purchase a mobile mapping system, (other products were) nonstarters. I knew it was going to be Riegl. I liked the design, with two scanners rigidly mounted close together in a single unit. I like that design more than anything else. The fact that Riegl scanners are strapped to it, it was a no-brainer for me.”
The Reigl user conference will feature three days of keynotes, panel and breakout sessions. Highlights include a tour of the Riegl headquarters in Horn, Austria, on June 27 and the Airborne Technical Tour of aircraft manufacturers on June 28.
Oil sands are a hot topic, especially in Europe, for political and environmental reasons, Tucker said. At the conference, he plans to start his session with the history of the Alberta oil sands, dating to the 1700s when Canadian First Nations showed European settlers the area, to projects that are going on today. One of the specifics he plans to discuss includes just how much oil there is in Alberta. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that there are 173.6 billion barrels of proven oil sands reserves in Canada, with the vast majority in Alberta. That compares with the 265 billion barrels of proven reserves in Saudi Arabia.
As such, 3D mapping for the oil and gas industry will continue to grow in Alberta. Earlier this month, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers released a report that predicted production will more than double to 6.7 million barrels per day by 2030. This represents a 500,000 barrel per day increase over the group’s forecast in 2012. The figure includes 5.2 million barrels oil sands production per day in 2030, up from 1.8 million barrels per day in 2012.
Companies will need surveyors to calculate volumes, map shovel pits, roads and power line clearances in 3D. Tucker said one of the primary benefits to oil, gas and pipeline company owners is safety.
“From a safety point of view, there (are) few things that can compete with mobile mapping with respect to plot plans and quickly collecting and accessing that data and turning it into products,” he said. “… The fact that we can go in and scan a shovel pit and determine accurate volumes within truly a few seconds or less than a minute of driving through a shovel pit and have everything surveyed – owners are interested in that.”