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Exploring New Solutions for Wind Turbine Blades

Wind farms began popping up in the 1990s and many turbines are reaching the end of their 20-30-year useful lives now. The challenge of wind turbine blade disposal has captured attention around the world, and a team at the EERC led by Joshua Strege, Principal Process Engineer, has received State Energy Research Center funding to address the need for further research into the recycling or repurposing potential of blades in North Dakota.

Difficulties for disposal include transportation, destruction, and landfilling of decommissioned blades. Strege is hoping to fill the growing demand for novel technologies to avoid landfill disposal of retired blades by finding ways each section could be repurposed to create new, high-value products. There is added public relations pressure to find a solution for keeping a renewable energy source as green as possible.

Currently, the most common method for dealing with used wind blades in the United States is landfill disposal. In Europe, blades are crushed, then burned in cement kilns. Neither of these options is ideal: Landfill disposal is not sustainable due to the size of the blades, and much of the blade structure is poorly combustible. Blades can be resold if they are still in good working order, but this is not always an option. Because blades vary so much from section to section, the ideal solution to reusing blades will likely involve separating blades into different product streams.

“I’m interested in seeing what the different components could be repurposed as—I’m not set on one specific product at this point,” said Strege. “There’s potential for reuse in something that could use the retained strength of fiberglass, instead of trying to break it down or sending whole blades to landfills.”

North Dakota has more than 1,500 turbines, with a typical turbine able to produce up to 1.5 megawatts of energy. A single blade from one of these towers can be more than 110 ft long and weigh over 6 tons. Upgrades will soon be reaching North Dakota’s turbines, and a better solution to one of the wind industry’s biggest challenges could be coming as well. As public pressure grows to find new uses for aged blades, a recycling industry will inevitably develop at some point. Finding secondary values from blades would help offset costs for decommissioning and disposing of blades in North Dakota and could set the state ahead of the curve in developing a blade recycling infrastructure.

Core Value Award Recipients

Left to right: Kari Lindemann, Kyle Glazewski, Lonny Jacobson, Kari Suedel, Rachael Perriello
In 2019, we began awarding our employees for their amazing efforts in our five core values: to be safe, ethical, engaged, effective, and professional. We are proud to share our 2020 award recipients with you.

Be Safe: Lonny Jacobson – Principal Operations Specialist
Lonny has created a culture of safety within his team. He is constantly engaging in his team’s projects and uses his knowledge to coach others on the hazards they could face. He prioritizes resources to create a safer work environment and is actively taking steps to grow not just a “safety first” mentality but a “safety ALWAYS” mentality. 

Be Ethical: Rachael Perriello – Environment, Health, and Safety Specialist
While there are often quicker ways to finish a job, shortcuts or new avenues could create risky situations for our teams. Rachael reminds us all that we are to do the right thing, always, even if it isn’t the easiest way. She has had numerous opportunities to take shortcuts or make complications go away but has instead held herself, and her colleagues, to the highest ethical standards. 

Be Engaged: Kari Suedel – Senior Digital Media Specialist and Photographer 
Kari has infused tremendous enthusiasm into not only her group but many others. She is continuously filled with fresh ideas and better ways to share the EERC with everyone she can. She was a leader in the recent conversion of our website and has earned the respect of many of our clients through her graphic arts and media services. 

Be Effective: Kari Lindemann – Lead Research Information Associate
Kari is a leader in all efforts in proposals and reporting. She has worked countless hours after closing to ensure products make it to their destinations in perfect form. Kari is always effective and excels at her job with a great smile and attitude. Beyond her normal duties, she also leads one of our largest engagement events every year. 

Be Professional: Kyle Glazewski – Senior Analyst, Geographic Information System Team Lead
A word chosen to represent Kyle was “inspiring.” He inspires others with his integrity, interpersonal skills, respect for others, and leadership every day. These qualities are matched with consistently high-quality and timely technical results. He selflessly mentors, encourages, and advocates for employees across all teams, and strives to help others be the best professionals they can be. 

We are thankful to have such wonderful employees who do work they can be proud of every day!

EERC Welcomes Yang Yu

Dr. Yang Yu is a Research Scientist at the EERC, where he conducts laboratory analyses and interprets laboratory data to support research activities related to improved production of unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in unconventional and conventional formations, and subsurface storage of CO2 and/or rich gas. He holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Petroleum Engineering from Texas Tech University and a B.S. degree in Petroleum Engineering from Northeast Petroleum University, Daqing, China. Prior to his position at the EERC, Yang served as an R&D Project Specialist with Porous Materials, Inc., Ithaca, New York.

Yang’s principal areas of interest and expertise include reservoir engineering, unconventional reservoir development, EOR, and rock and fluid properties analysis. He serves as a reviewer for Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, SPE Production & Operations, the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, and Applied Nanoscience. He has authored or coauthored numerous peer-reviewed and other professional publications.

“I really enjoy the working atmosphere at the EERC; it’s like a big family. Everyone is friendly and helpful,” said Yang. “I was given an ambassador when I started, and I appreciate that they are helping me grow into my role and adapt to the new working and living environments.”

Yang heard about the EERC from a current employee and became interested in his role at the EERC when he saw the opportunity for his work to support and promote carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). “I’m excited to be in a position where I can make use of my current skills and capabilities. I also have the opportunity to keep learning and enhancing my abilities by participating in multiple projects.”

Yang grew up in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, China, which he said has a similar climate to Grand Forks, making it an easier adjustment. He enjoys spending time outdoors and activities like hiking, skating, and fishing. He also likes to get together with friends and barbeque when he can

EERC Welcomes Meghan Taunton

Meghan Taunton is a Research Engineer at the EERC, where she interfaces with a diverse team of scientists and engineers to address challenges related to oil and gas development and geologic CO2 storage. Her work includes interpreting subsurface data, regional geologic characterization activities, and field assessments in support of EERC projects. She holds a B.S. degree in Geological Engineering and a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of North Dakota and B.A. degrees in Mass Communications and Public Relations from California State University San Bernardino. Prior to her position at the EERC, she held positions with the North Dakota Geological Survey Wilson M. Laird Core & Sample Library, Halliburton Energy Services, and NBC affiliate KUMV-TV.

Meghan’s principal areas of interest and expertise include technical and nontechnical communications and public relations, subsurface pressure management, produced water treatment, and oil and gas field operations. 

Meghan was drawn to her position at the EERC because it offers the opportunity to be part of bringing the energy industry into the future. The focus on making energy safer, cleaner, and more efficient is important to her. Her position also offers the ability to use both her engineering and communications skills. 

“The collaborative atmosphere at the EERC is great because everyone brings their own ideas and perspectives,” said Meghan. “Field projects have been great for me because I love learning by doing. Having direct involvement in operations on location has been really cool.” 

Meghan is from Yucaipa, California, and moved to Grand Forks from Williston, North Dakota, in 2018. She enjoys exploring the outdoors and traveling, especially road trips. She has been to 34 states, most during road trips, and said her longest road trip was 4 weeks long. Meghan also has a small dog that travels with her whenever possible.

EERC Welcomes Arash Abarghani

Dr. Arash Abarghani is a Research Scientist at the EERC, where he conducts laboratory analyses and interprets laboratory data to support research activities related to improved production of unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, enhanced oil recovery in unconventional and conventional formations, and subsurface storage of CO2 and/or rich gas. He holds a Ph.D. degree in Petroleum Engineering from the University of North Dakota; an M.Sc. degree in Sedimentary Geology from Shahid Beheshti University of Tehran, Iran; and a B.Sc. degree in Geology from the University of Tabriz, Iran. Prior to his position at the EERC, Arash served as a Subsurface Geologist for the Exploration Directorate of the National Iranian Oil Company for 14 years.

Arash’s principal area of interest and expertise is the characterization of unconventional source rocks using organic petrology, geochemistry, and other advanced methods, including atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based nano IR spectroscopy (AFM–IR) and high-resolution AFM. He serves as a reviewer for the International Journal of Coal Geology and the journal Fuel. 

“I am passionate about scientific research, and that’s what it’s all about at the EERC. I’m excited to work with other researchers here and be able to contribute to the projects taking place here,” Arash said. “I spent the last 7 months of my Ph.D. coursework at the EERC as a research assistant and found that the EERC was somewhere I was doing work I can really be proud of!” 

Arash is from Iran and is a permanent resident of the United States. He and his wife, Rozita, have an 8-year-old son, Ariya. In his free time, Arash enjoys music and plays the Tar, a traditional Iranian instrument. He also enjoys spending time in nature and nature photography, playing chess, and traveling. His family also likes to travel, and they are always looking for opportunities to visit national parks and historical and cultural places.

EERC Welcomes Zahra Finnigan

Zahra Finnigan is a Geoscientist at the EERC, where she interfaces with a diverse team of scientists and engineers to assess project uncertainties in oil and gas development and geologic CO2 storage. Her work involves contributing to the development of models of the subsurface and other regional characterization activities in support of EERC projects. She holds a B.S. degree in Geology from the University of North Dakota and an Associate degree in Physical Science from Seminole State College, Seminole, Oklahoma.

Zahra’s principal areas of interest and expertise include geologic modeling and mapping, cartography, and field sampling and collection. 

“As an aspiring geoscientist, my vision of success is influenced by the environmental research I can conduct, as well as the work environment that I am surrounded and supported by,” said Zahra. “The EERC’s impact on the state allows me to acquire the knowledge and tools to succeed. Working in a work environment like the EERC means that my dream of solving world energy problems is achievable and within reach.” 

Zahra was interested in working at the EERC because of the reputation of ambition and persistence we have. She identifies the same qualities in herself and credits them with the success she’s had throughout her life. Zahra worked at the EERC as a student research assistant for nearly 2 years. She helped with several projects, including CarbonSAFE and the rare-earth elements project. She said the exposure to such broad areas of work allowed her to better establish her professional path. 

Zahra grew up in Zimbabwe. She said her childhood had a deep impact on her goals and is the reason she feels so strongly about making a difference and being part of innovative research that advances future energy opportunities around the world. Zahra also had the goal of playing American college sports and was recruited from Zimbabwe to play for the University of North Dakota women’s tennis team. She played her full eligibility and is now a volunteer assistant coach for the team.

PCOR: Paving the Way for CCUS

The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership began in 2003 as one of seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSPs) awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The PCOR Partnership was led by a team of experts at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and eventually boasted more than 120 public and private sector stakeholders.

Throughout its duration, the PCOR Partnership uncovered new possibilities in carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). Social acceptance, policy creation and reform—especially Class VI Primacy, and commercialization of CCUS technologies are a few of the many monumental achievements from this period. “PCOR set the stage as a world leader in that space,” said EERC CEO Charles Gorecki. “After seeing the progress made in regard to tax credits, primacy, and outreach, technical viability almost seems like the easiest thing we’ve done.”

The focus on wide-scale deployment of CCUS technologies, and the supported projects stemming from PCOR research have proven CCUS to be a valuable part of protecting our environment into the future. North Dakota CarbonSAFE, Wyoming CarbonSAFE, Project Tundra, and Red Trail Energy’s CCS Project are examples of what has been made possible with the advanced research and development techniques led by PCOR. 

“It goes beyond PCOR. It started as a DOE-funded program with the goal of reducing carbon intensity, and it has blossomed into so much more,” said Ed Steadman, EERC Vice President for Research. “It’s gone from needing to understand, ‘Is CCUS possible in this region,’ to small-scale demonstrations, then large-scale demonstrations, and now commercial efforts. The original DOE vision is being realized right now.” 

December 31, 2019, marked the end of a decade and the end of the 16-year program known as the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership. However, the program will continue in a new way as the PCOR Initiative. In September 2019, DOE announced a $5 million grant for the PCOR Initiative to accelerate the development and commercialization of CCUS technologies. “PCOR isn’t just ending. There’s more to come,” said Gorecki. 

For more information about the PCOR Initiative, please visit https://undeerc.org/PCOR/.



EERC Welcomes Xuefei Zhang

Dr. Xuefei Zhang is an Analytical Chemist at the EERC, where he performs analytical research focused on the chemical and geochemical evaluation of water, oil, rocks, and other materials in support of research activities related to improved production of unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in unconventional and conventional formations, and fuels analysis. He holds a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of North Dakota, a M.S. degree in Physics from the University of Maine, and a B.S. degree in Materials Science & Engineering from Tianjin University, China. Prior to his position at the EERC, Xuefei served as a Test Engineer at Donaldson Company Inc., Bloomington, Minnesota. 

“In the lab, we are able to provide a variety of projects with reliable and high-quality data. I enjoy having the exposure to so many interesting people and practical research topics at the EERC,” Xuefei said. “The EERC is a great work environment for me.” Xuefei first learned about the EERC when he began studying at UND and a professor recommended it to him. 

Xuefei grew up in Hubei, China, where he lived until he finished high school. He has four children, three of whom were born in Grand Forks. He enjoys many sports, especially UND and UMaine Hockey. He also enjoys music and attending Summer Performing Arts (SPA) performances in the area.