When the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) was asked to take on new responsibilities in 2013 by the Government of Alberta to make sure companies develop the province’s massive energy resources responsibly, the organization embarked on an ambitious digital transformation journey that led to the creation of OneStop, a digital platform for energy companies to submit a single application for a proposed project.
“For us, it was a massive merger of functions,” explains Tara Mulrooney, the AER’s chief technology officer, referring to activities that relate to oil, bitumen, natural gas, and coal development. “And after we got through that initial phase of putting people and processes together, it was very clear we had to transform. We didn’t have the resources, the systems or integrated process to look at everything in an effective and efficient way.”
Of course, this was no easy feat, especially in a province that continues to be the largest producer of natural gas and oil in Canada. There were also no off-the shelf models to build off of, says Mulrooney. The solution they ultimately built was a true, made-in-Alberta one, and it was without the help of a system’s integrator.
“Almost every regulator out there is building custom-built systems,” says Mulrooney.
The AER began by building a foundational data layer that would help them review applications and make decisions on tens of thousands of proposed energy developments. This was done with the help of the Professional Petroleum Data Management Association, a not-for-profit that helps organizations in the oil and gas industry set a strategic direction for management standards.
Additional layers followed, including a service tier through Tibco, and a transactional tier through OpenText. Mulrooney says the AER first used AER to make the reclamation process more efficient.
After resources are extracted from a specific piece of land, the site is then restored to its original ecosystem functions, such as crop production or wildlife habitat.
When the AER inherited the additional regulatory responsibilities years prior, it came with a large backlog of reclamation applications since every single one was reviewed manually. OneStop was able to not only generate 2,100 low-risk reclamation certificates within hours, but it also eliminated the entire backlog of these applications.
According to AER’s 2017/2018 annual report, OneStop has automatically approved 70 per cent of all reclamation, pipeline, and water applications that it has processed.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback from citizen landowners because they have access to information they’ve never had before,” says Mulrooney. The public can access these applications and approval documents, and find out exactly who to contact if they have concerns.
“Because we’re making all our processes and data transparent, it’s created many benefits for us functionally in how we all work together. Our work is very important and complex, and [OneStop] is helping educate people across our organization. And from an industry perspective, they’re so happy to see an intuitive platform for them to engage with in one place, one time.”