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Tthe Surmont oil sands project, co-owned by ConocoPhillips and Total.Nathan VanderKlippe/The Globe and Mail

IHS CERA, the U.S-based energy research firm, is embarking on the latest in its series of oil sands reports that have become required reading for anyone with a stake in how Canada's massive resource gets developed, shipped and regulated.

On June 6, more than 50 experts from all sides of the contentious debate will gather in Calgary to give their views on the nationwide economic impacts of oil sands development, both pro and con. It's a kind of focus group whose input will be part and parcel of IHS CERA's next "dialogue" report to be released later this year.

The idea behind the research, which started in 2009, is to bring together candid and diverse views away from the media spotlight to arrive at independent and publicly available reference documents, said Jackie Forrest, IHS CERA's Calgary-based senior director. Previous volumes have concentrated on such crucial topics as the economics of oil sands upgrading and comparisons of greenhouse gas emissions against other oil.

The work has snowballed in influence. Data are used by governments, companies, environmental groups and the media.

The research has recently helped shape the Keystone XL pipeline debate through a submission to the U.S. State Department on life-cycle carbon impacts. Prime Minister Stephen Harper referenced the research in New York recently when he said rejecting the pipeline would mean more Venezuelan heavy oil in the United States, which has similar carbon emissions as Alberta's oil sands.

"The goal is to present the facts and the data to try to help inform the debate. If environmental groups and governments and industry are all using our data, that shows that we've been successful," Ms. Forrest said.

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