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Energizing North Dakota's Future

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) hosted the 2nd Annual Partnership Summit on June 8. The event served as a forum for partners from multiple energy industry sectors to discuss critical topics. Attendees advanced their partnerships and worked on a collaborative action plan for environmentally responsible use of energy, contributing to an “all of the above” approach to energy production.

University of North Dakota (UND) men’s basketball coach Brian Jones kicked off the event with his message on appreciating winning through the experience of loss. UND President Mark Kennedy and North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness welcomed the attendees, who represented public utilities, private industry, government entities, and energy research experts.



Dr. Randall Gentry, Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), discussed the role of NETL in using domestic resources to power our nation’s homes, industries, businesses, and transportation economically, while protecting our environment and enhancing our energy independence. A multidisciplinary discussion panel focused on current challenges and highlighted the strength created through collaboration in North Dakota. Panelists included Nicole Kivisto, President and CEO of MDU Resources Group’s Utility Companies, Lynn Helms, Director of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, and Justin Kringstad, Director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. Charles McConnell, Executive Director of the Rice Energy and Environment Initiative, moderated the panel.

“We have an opportunity to change and prepare for the future,” says EERC CEO Tom Erickson. “Venues like this foster collaboration on those opportunities.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Mark Pearson, CEO of Liberty Resources, LLC, identified the challenge and vision of getting the next increments of oil and gas out of the ground, emphasizing how new technology must continue to improve recovery from the Bakken.

Charles Gorecki, EERC Director of Subsurface Research and Development, and Brian Kalk, EERC Director of Energy Systems Development, outlined goals for North Dakota’s energy future. These goals include doubling or tripling the current oil production in the state, eliminating pipeline leaks, increasing oil recovery rates in existing wells, maximizing the use of North Dakota natural gas and energy export opportunities, and making the best use of synergies between the agriculture and energy industries. Specific ideas discussed were using nanotechnology in pipelines to detect potential leaks and the feasibility of using carbon dioxide captured from energy production in greenhouses to grow produce year-round in North Dakota.

“From the opening comments to our luncheon keynote, the theme of change was prevalent—the change that has occurred and the change necessary for all of us to capitalize on the incredible opportunities ahead,” said Erickson.

EERC Research Takes International Stage

Two Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) staff members recently attended the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) Mid-Year Meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The CSLF works with 26 member governments across six continents to address key technical, economic, and environmental obstacles in the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. CCS technology can capture carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, and deposit them in an underground geologic formation, preventing emissions from entering the atmosphere.

John Harju, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, participated on a panel of experts from across the globe entitled Carbon Utilization Challenges and Opportunities. He discussed enhanced oil recovery in unconventional shale plays, such as those found in the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. The EERC leads a number of major carbon capture, utilization, and storage programs, including the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership and the Partnership for CO2 Capture.

EERC Principal Engineer John Hamling presented an update on the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory’s Brine Extraction and Storage Test projects. Two of these field projects are in the United States—one in Florida and one in North Dakota. The North Dakota location is led by the EERC and involves field-testing brine extraction as a means of improving storage potential of a geologic formation.

“Despite the significantly different environment in North Dakota compared to the Middle East, there are a lot of synergies in energy research being conducted between these locations,” says Hamling. “The research being conducted at the EERC in areas such as CO2 capture and utilization, water treatment, and enhanced oil recovery has global impact.”

EERC’s Chimote named Student Employment Supervisor of the Year in three categories

Saurabh Chimote, Senior Software Development Engineer at the University of North Dakota (UND) Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), has the unique distinction of being named the Student Employment Supervisor of the Year in three categories – UND, the state, and the region. The awards were presented during a reception at the EERC on May 15.

The awards are given by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators. For the UND award, his name will go on a plaque in the student employment office. The North Dakota statewide award includes a cash prize of $50, and the regional award includes a cash prize of $100. There are 14 states in the regional association, and the regional award is the highest level at which the award can be given. 

Chimote has been supervising students since 2013 when he initiated their hiring to help with software development. This real-world experience is a complement to their academic studies. Chimote provides an atmosphere in which students thrive and succeed.

“Saurabh’s supervision style is that of a guide or coach,” says his supervisor, Andrew Palmiscno, who nominated Saurabh for the award. “He tailors his instruction to meet the level of each student and fully involves them in client interaction, which contributes to students’ development of soft skills. Saurabh also mentors them on their career goals, providing advice on what classes to take to reach those goals.”

Chimote’s approach prepares students for their future professional expectations by moving them from an academic setting to a business environment where they focus on client needs. He uses his extensive technical knowledge to support the students in their work.

One student says, “Saurabh has shown me what kind of manager I want to be in my career. He is inclusive, treats students with respect, teaches us how to do things better, and always encourages us to ask questions.”

Left to right: EERC Staff Harry Duchscherer, Andrew Palmiscno, Saurabh Chimote, Sara Lahr, and UND Students/EERC Employees Aaron Johnson and Christian Hansen.  
Chimote holds both an MBA and an MS degree in Information Systems from the University of Cincinnati, a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Information Technology from Nagpur University, India, and a diploma in Computer Technology from the Board of Technical Education, Mumbai, India.

EERC Staff Hold Donation Drive for Northlands Rescue Mission

University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center staff recently held a donation drive to benefit Northlands Rescue Mission. The Mission’s new director, Sue Shirek, accepted the donation on May 12 during a visit to the EERC. 


Northlands Rescue Mission director Sue Shirek (second from left) accepts donations from EERC employees. Pictured left to right: EERC CEO Tom Erickson, Shirek, and EERC staff members Sheryl Landis, John Kay, Rhonda Olson, Wes Peck, Janelle Ensrud, Amanda Livers, and Sue White.
“People often ask me if their small contributions can make much of a difference,” says Shirek. “The answer is – absolutely. It may not seem like it when you’re donating a few cans of food, but you can see those individual donations add up to a lot to benefit the community.”

The effort was spearheaded by the EERC’s Social Cause committee, which is a group of employees that volunteer within the community. The committee selects a charity each year and raises money, donates goods, or volunteers their time at that organization. This year’s work at the Northlands Rescue Mission includes assembling meals for the Backpack Program, sorting food and clothing donations, or working in the Mission’s store, where residents can get personal care and other items. 

 “It is amazing to work at a place with people that have this much generosity,” says Amanda Livers, EERC Research Scientist in Geophysics and Social Cause committee chairperson. 

The supply drive for the Mission was supported by a fun competition among teams of EERC staff. Over the course of the eight day competition, over $10,000 worth of necessities were collected.
Last year, the committee raised over $5,400 for the Altru Health Foundation through their Spin for Kids fundraiser, which was the second-largest amount raised by a team in 2016.

Introducing Dr. Brian Kalk

The EERC is happy to welcome Dr. Brian Kalk as Director of Energy Systems Development. Brian and his team focus on developing new solutions and advancing existing technologies for our clients. Brian holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resource Management and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from North Dakota State University (NDSU). He also holds a B.S. in Social and Political Science from Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina. 

Brian began his career in the Marine Corps, where he served overseas in Desert Storm, Bosnia, and Iraq and participated in the evacuation of the American Embassies in Liberia and the Central African Republic. Stateside tours included positions such as Environmental Compliance Officer at Camp Pendelton in California and Logistics Officer for numerous units. He retired in 2006 at the rank of Major, at which time he joined NDSU, teaching courses in Natural Resources, Logistics, and Political Science. From 2009 to 2017, Brian served as a member and Chair of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, where he held portfolios in Electric Generation and Transmission, Pipeline Safety, and Telecommunications. 

Brian's principal areas of interest and expertise include pipeline safety, species management, electric generation, and transmission planning. He is a member of the National Coal Council. Brian has also served as President of the Midwest Area Regulatory Commissioners, Chair of the Clean Coal and Carbon Management Committee of the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners, and member of the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Clean Coal Technology delegation to China. He has provided input, review, and oversight on state and federal energy policies.  

Not surprisingly, Brian has seen many changes in the energy industry over the last several decades and has insight on the changes and challenges facing the United States in the future. 

"The world's population will continue to grow, straining our energy resources and presenting new environmental challenges. Energy demands will continue to increase in all regions of the world, making it ever more important that we use all sources of energy wisely and assist other nations to promote regional stability. I have always believed that energy security = national security. The United States must use all sources of energy and acknowledge that there are pros and cons to each," Brian said. 

"The knowledge, experience, and drive of the EERC position us well to be the 'go-to' research body when it comes to the complex problems we face. The reputation of the EERC is second to none," he added. "I look forward to working with the 'best of the best' and being on the cutting edge of the development of new technologies and applications of the next generation of solutions to energy system problems. I'm excited to be part of the team." 

Brian and his wife have been married 26 years this summer. She is a special education teacher and hopes to work in the Grand Forks area soon. Their daughter is a reporter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When he is not working, Brian enjoys golfing, hunting, fishing, and watching UND hockey and Bison football.    

Introducing Nikki Massmann

The EERC welcomes Nikki Massmann as the Director of Communications, where she works in partnership with clients on media relations and communication strategy for collaborative projects. Nikki also works with the EERC leadership team developing and implementing communication initiatives.

Nikki's principal areas of interest and expertise include strategic communication planning, media and public relations, information dissemination, social media, and marketing. She sees this job as a perfect fit for her.

"This position is the perfect blend of my past career experience and interest areas. Every day is different - one day I'm working with engineers on strategy for a public outreach campaign for their research project; the next day I might be giving a tour of our facility to elementary school children. The research we do here is fascinating and reaches all over the globe. I love being able to help people connect that research to their everyday lives," Nikki explained.

Prior to her position at the EERC, Nikki served as Communication Coordinator at the Center for Rural Health, located at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She also has experience working in quality assurance, technical writing, and project management in the healthcare field. Nikki holds a B.S. degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from the University of Minnesota, Crookston, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Higher Education from the University of North Dakota.

Regarding the communication field, Nikki says, "Technology has completely changed the way we send and receive information. Online sources, text message alerts, smartphone apps, and email newsletters are now part of the normal communication landscape. Social media, in particular, is a valuable way to engage audiences. It has become an essential piece of communication in this era; it's a great addition to existing communication channels, such as print materials, face-to-face interaction, tailored key messages, and public relations."

A native of Crookston, Minnesota, Nikki credits her parents' influence for her current career.

"I grew up listening to my dad, a broadcaster on local radio, and loved going to work with him on 'Take Your Daughter to Work Day.' I ended up working at the radio station part-time during high school and college and liked the excitement of interacting with the public. I have always used writing as a creative outlet and discovered a natural ability for building relationships and connecting with people through my writing and everyday interactions," Nikki said. "Add in my interest in science and healthcare inherited from my mom, who is a nurse, and I ended up with an eclectic combination of interests that drew me to the scientific and technical communication field."

Nikki's husband is the logistics manager at the North Dakota Mill & Elevator. They have two daughters, ages 14 and 8, and one son, age 10, all very active in music, theater, dance, and soccer. When she is not attending her children's activities or doing her own schoolwork for her master's, Nikki is an avid reader and enjoys spending time socializing with friends, attending concerts, and watching television.