The Keystone Pipeline’s GIS Connection

GIS Degree is Safe Bet for Professionals in the Ever-Growing Oil Industry

Aurora, Colo. – December 19, 2011 – The Keystone Pipeline Project has been a hotly debated topic in Washington and around the country. The pipeline would carry crude oil from northeastern Alberta, Canada to several locations in the U.S. by 2013. While the political and environmental aspects have been well covered, the use of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology has been minimally discussed.

The fact that GIS technology is used to build the 2,000-plus mile, $12 billion pipeline shows there is a great demand for college graduates with GIS degrees.

The federal regulatory requirements under the Clean Water Act mandate any new pipeline or right-of-way must be surveyed and mapped to evaluate potential adverse effects. The total miles for U.S. pipelines increased from 131,000 in 2005 to 149,000 in 2009, making a GIS degree a safe bet for the ever-growing oil industry. (To learn the exact U.S. figures for total pipeline and rights-of-way miles, go to

The increased U.S. pipelines will mean the oil business needs a lot more GIS professionals.

“GIS provides an essential tool for managing a project of this scale and magnitude and GIS professionals are the right people that make this happen,” says Devon Cancilla, Ph.D., dean, business and technology at American Sentinel University.

Dr. Cancilla notes American Sentinel’s online GIS degree programs teach students how to interpret and visualize spatial data to uncover patterns, trends and relationships and will prepare students to enter and or move up in this rapidly growing field. From identifying and locating natural resources and hazards to the identification of animal migratory routes and bringing this information together, Dr. Cancilla says GIS technology ensures that better decisions are being made.

How GIS Technology Will Impact the Keystone GIS Project For the Keystone Pipeline Project, GIS technology was used to track the wetlands, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and riparian areas. Since the Keystone Pipeline Project crosses three USACE districts, including the Omaha, Kansas City, and Tulsa districts, each district had different survey requirements.

According to a March 2007 report, the Keystone Pipeline Project began with a review of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps, National Wetland Inventory (NWI) maps, available soil surveys and 2005 aerial photographs pertaining to the proposed route. Remote sensors, analytics software and Esri’s ArcGIS would be used to capture Keystone.

According to Esri’s summer 2011 newsletter, TransCanada officials even used GIS technology to procure bids. They supplied hundreds of contractors with superior visual information so bids could be provided more quickly and without costly site travel.

GIS technology was also used to develop the third Environmental Impact Statement that the U.S. Department of State has issued on Keystone XL since the review process began in 2008.

Although no credit was given to GIS technology in the press conference, TransCanada publicly noted that the proposed route is the shortest and would disturb the least amount of land and water bodies resulting in reduced environmental impacts. The alternative routes were proven to have higher corrosion rates during pipeline transportation.

In fact, in almost every report or study published about Keystone, it’s likely that the author used GIS technology to come to his or her conclusions. Other than walking every mile on the route, there’s just no way they could come to the best conclusions without the technology.

But that should come as no surprise to anybody in the oil and gas business. Since the technology has been available, they have been using GIS. And they will continue to us GIS technology for a long time.

For those professionals who enjoy analyzing spatial data, now is a great time to work on an online GIS degree.

Learn More About American Sentinel University’s GIS Degrees American Sentinel’s degree programs teach students to utilize GIS technology and tools to interpret and visualize geospatial data to create solutions to real-world challenges Learn more about American Sentinel University’s GIS degrees at

And coming soon, American Sentinel plans to launch its new geospatial information systems certificate (GISGC) and a master of geospatial information systems (GISC) degrees.

Learn more about American Sentinel’s IT distance education programs at

For more news updates, information and special offers, follow American Sentinel University on Twitter @amersentinel and become a Facebook fan at

About American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited associate, bachelor’s and master’s online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS, computer information systems and business intelligence degrees. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.