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EERC Teams with GF Public Schools to Brighten the Holiday Season

This holiday season, employees of the EERC generously contributed to the Adopt-a-Family Program, now in its 15th year, to brighten the holidays for local families in need. Social workers with the Grand Forks Public School District identify families unable to afford gifts for their children during the holidays. EERC employees sponsored two families this year, providing clothing, household items, toys, gas cards, bus passes, and gift cards.


Sue Bartley, EERC Human Resources Manager and liaison to the Adopt-a-Family Program, and Barb Kitko, social worker with the Grand Forks School District, along with a team of EERC employees, helped to collect, wrap, and load all of the gifts for delivery.

“Our employees are so generous that families usually get everything on their lists and more,” said Bartley. “Once again, we were able to give toys and gift cards to additional families as well.”

“The EERC has always done a fantastic job helping make Christmas special for some of the larger families,” said Kitko. “Christmas can be really trying on the ‘working poor.’ These families are working hard just to make ends meet and aren’t getting services from anywhere else. It’s not always possible to stretch the budget for gifts and ‘extras,’ even at the holidays.”

FEATURED TECHNOLOGY: Carbon Capture Demonstration System

Concerns over the impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from combustion sources on global climate change have prompted numerous research and development projects aimed at developing cost-effective technologies for CO2 capture. Currently, no technologies have achieved significant commercial demonstration for the capture of CO2 from large combustion point sources such as a coal-fired power plant. 

However, the EERC's Partnership for CO2 Capture (PCO2C) is conducting a pilot-scale demonstration to test select CO2 separation and capture technologies for fossil fuel- and biomass-fired systems. The project is aimed at providing project sponsors with key technical and economic information that can be used to examine the feasibility of technologies as a function of fuel type and system configuration. 

View the product summary by clicking the image below.

Carbon Capture Demonstration System

For more information on the EERC's CO2 Capture System and how it is helping create tools for managing CO2 capture decisions, contact John Kay, EERC Senior Research Manager, at (701) 777-4580 or jkay@undeerc.org.

The CO2 Challenge: Economical Capture, Utilization, and Storage

Author: John Kay, EERC Senior Research Manager

Much debate has surrounded anthropogenic (man-made) sources of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, and their link to global climate change. The argument over this concept has moved into the international political structure and is now a major driver of policy. Although the long-term impacts of climate change, both ecologically and sociologically, are being debated rigorously, worldwide goals for reducing CO2emissions are moving forward as are regulations. In the United States, many questions confront utilities as to how to comply with proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission regulations and still provide affordable power.

Anthropogenic CO2 is a by-product of almost everything humans do, including breathing. Large stationary sources of CO2 are the focus of EPA’s emission limits. Electric utilities, petroleum and gas processing, ag-related processing, and industry, such as cement and steel plants, are the largest point sources of CO2, and entire books have been written on their potential influence on the world’s climate. This article will focus on the coal-fired power generation sector and the challenges it faces with CO2 emissions.

The scale of CO2 emissions from U.S. power generation is large. One metric ton of coal used to fuel electricity production produces 2.0 to 2.4 metric tons of CO2. A typical coal-fired power plant will consume hundreds of metric tons of coal an hour, depending on coal type and plant size. The U.S. electricity industry alone has a very large carbon footprint, given that there were 1308 coal-fired units across 557 locations in the United States (as of the end of 2012). In fact, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the U.S. coal-fired fleet emitted over 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2 in 2012. For the spectrum of generation units across the country, this translates to hundreds of thousands to millions of metric tons of CO2 emitted annually by each plant. Nonetheless, the U.S. represents only about an eighth of the world’s coal use, and that fraction is rapidly diminishing as domestic use stabilizes and international use continues to grow.

The use of coal for electricity generation is unlikely to be significantly reduced in the foreseeable future. Since the Industrial Revolution, coal has been the foundation for many of the technological advances the world has enjoyed and is so firmly enmeshed that it is simply impossible to quit using coal “cold turkey.” Coal is a fossil fuel, like oil and natural gas, and is part of our nation’s energy security. It is abundant and can be used efficiently and in an environmentally sound manner to meet energy needs. The IEA projects that the use of coal will remain steady and continue to be the foundation of energy production, not only for the United States but for the world, for decades to come.

Anthropogenic CO2 can be captured and sent to storage before it enters the atmosphere (direct sequestration) or after it has entered the atmosphere (indirect sequestration). 

The discussion of CO2 in the power generation sector has to be fully laid out for context. Various aspects of the process can be found in all of the major publications, but the integrated process—CO2 capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)—must be considered in its entirety. When each aspect is viewed separately, the overall process appears generic and not representative of a given situation. To achieve an accurate representation, a fully integrated process must be considered. Discussion of CO2 capture involves the discussion of plant size, existing emission controls, CO2 technology being used, and the energy penalty to the plant and must include the available options for transporting the CO2, as well as available options for storage or use of the captured CO2. The cost of each of these points must be taken into consideration because they will impact the ultimate cost of electricity in a carbon-managed power production scenario.

Moving toward U.S. energy security means entering into a situation where most U.S. energy, and energy sources, are harvested in North America in a manner that is reliable, relatively inexpensive and environmentally responsible. Most consumers of power are resistant to large increases on their electricity bill, while simultaneously, there is a public demand to reliably purchase power that is produced in an environmentally friendly way. The U.S. energy security goal is a very delicate balance between all of these factors, and the CCUS composition must be able to adjust to them.

The capture component is not as simple as one might think. A broad spectrum of generation units varying from less than 50 to over 800 MW in size are in use today utilizing various coals of different heat densities, at different quantities, and with very different levels of emission control. The technologies that currently exist for capturing CO2 are sensitive to the composition of the flue gas, mostly sulfur and nitrogen oxides, referred to as SOx and NOx. Most currently deployed systems for removing SOx and NOx from flue gas do not remove enough of these constituents to prevent the degradation of the chemicals or membranes used in today’s CO2 capture technologies. In many cases, plants will likely need to deploy additional impurity removal techniques prior to CO2capture, equating to additional capital expense.

CO2capture technologies for coal-fired power plants are an ever-growing science and engineering enterprise. New concepts, or improvements to known concepts, are being generated every year. At this time, most of these concepts are not ready to be deployed at the full scale, so “first-generation” technologies which rely on experience gained in other industries will likely be the first deployed. Technologies to capture impurities from gas streams are not new, and many have been around for decades. Today’s most deployable technologies either rely on solvents or sorbents to capture the CO2 from a flue gas stream, while coal gasification can also employ membranes for CO2separation. Solvents/sorbents require heat, both to release the captured CO2and to regenerate the solvent/sorbent for reuse. This additional heat requirement is one of the largest challenges facing implementation of CO2capture and results in a significantly large energy penalty (parasitic load) on a power plant.

The most logical source of heat for solvent/sorbent regeneration is the steam cycle itself. In most coal-fired power plants, the steam cycle provides the energy for the electrical generator to produce electricity, and if steam is diverted to other purposes, then that energy is not available to turn the generator. It is universally recognized that the integration of today’s CO2capture technology will result in a reduction of the plant’s electricity output by up to 35%. Many of the smaller plants, certainly those below 100 MW, would be forced to shut down, as the costs of additional emission control and CO2capture integration and energy penalty would be too great to overcome. Other sources for regeneration energy could be used, but it would mean the construction of additional units and/or the application of an additional fuel source, which again equals more expense.

Solvents are currently the quickest way to capture CO2 but come with their own set of challenges. A majority of solvents used for CO2 capture are composed predominantly of water and amine-based chemicals, which typically make up 20% to 40% of the solution. The water component does not aid in the solvent’s ability to capture CO2, and there is ongoing research to reduce and/or remove the need for water altogether. Water content greatly contributes to the overall need for regeneration energy; therefore, less water would also mean a lower energy penalty. Each plant utilizing a solvent would need hundreds to thousands of gallons a year to replace the spent solvent. When adjusting that to the number of plants that would potentially use the solvent, the volume of chemicals needed each year becomes very large. Many chemical suppliers have recognized that a challenge would exist to produce enough of these chemicals for CO2capture alone, to say nothing for the production of these chemicals for any other use worldwide. Of additional note is the fact that these solvents may be hazardous, need to be handled carefully, and must be stored and disposed of properly to avoid potential harm to the environment.

Incremental improvements/changes in the composition of these solvents can have a broad effect on CCUS. Less water usage, lower regeneration energy requirement, greater CO2 uptake by the solvent, and greater tolerance for SOxand NOx are all factors that highly influence the economic viability of any solvent.

This is the focus of the Partnership for CO2 Capture (PCO2C) Program at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC). One of the primary goals of this program is to study solvents, sorbents, and technologies used for CO2 capture and test them utilizing actual combustion- or gasification-derived flue gas generated in pilot-scale systems from many different fuel sources. It is through this program, and others like it, that progress toward the goal of cost-effective CO2 capture is being realized, providing a pathway to technology demonstration and commercialization.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognizes that demonstrations of CO2capture technologies have been limited, and with the implementation of first-generation technologies, the wholesale cost of electricity could increase by 80% as a result of a projected cost of CO2 capture at $60 per metric ton. The DOE has set a goal for second-generation technology to drop the costs of CO2capture below $40 per metric ton in the 2020–2025 time frame. This is all part of a critical DOE-sponsored program that is focused on reducing the issues facing commercially viable carbon capture. The process for reaching commercial viability needs to be stepwise, ending in multiple scale-up demonstrations of each technology.


An illustration of CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR). 

The decisions made for updating emission control to accommodate for CO2capture integration and the selection of the CO2 technology are only the halfway point on the path to commercial CCUS. The remaining part of the path involves determining what should be done with the captured CO2. The most common option for CO2 storage is in deep geologic targets in sedimentary basins, such as depleted oil and gas fields, deep brine- or saltwater-filled formations, and deep unminable coal layers. The techniques for injecting and storing gases and fluids in deep geologic formations have been used in the oil, gas, and waste management industries for decades and have well-established practices. If the plant is located above or near a deep sedimentary basin, then there may be several options for CO2 storage. If there are nearby oil fields, the obvious first choice would be to provide CO2 for EOR. Utility power plants and other regulated CO2emission sources that do not have regional access to geologic options will have severe challenges when it comes to storing captured CO2.

To utilize CO2, it must first be transported. Transport of CO2is only economical within a certain distance from the emission source to a wellhead or a pipeline interconnect. Transportation is available through the use of pipelines and tankers to move compressed CO2 wherever it is needed, but at a cost, and these costs are not trivial. Costs have been estimated for trucks and trailers to be in the range of $45 per metric ton to transport CO2, whereas railcars are estimated to be about $35 per metric ton. Pipelines are a more economical option in the long run but require significant planning, permitting, and up-front capital. Costs for pipelines can vary widely, but a quick estimate can be made using rule-of-thumb guidelines at $70,000–$100,000 per inch of pipe diameter per mile of pipe. For example, a 12-inch pipeline would cost $840,000–$1,200,000 per mile; if the line were only 10 miles long, then the cost would be $8.4 to $12 million dollars. For a plant 500 miles from subsurface use, the costs for transport may be too high. In these situations, partnerships must form between the CO2 provider and the CO2 user.

CO2utilization and storage are the focus of another program led by the EERC called the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Program. This program is one of seven regional partnership programs sponsored by DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program. The PCOR Partnership Program is a collaboration of over 100 U.S. and Canadian stakeholders that is laying the groundwork for practical and environmentally sound CO2 storage projects in the heartland of North America.

It is easy to quickly realize that the costs for CCUS will be in the billions of dollars and, ultimately, those costs will be passed down in some form to the consumer. EOR and other utilization processes may ease some of the associated costs, but in the end, the price of energy will likely rise. In addition, many challenges are associated with the commercial implementation of CCUS, but we are working toward economically viable solutions. These solutions are going to take time to develop but will be needed, as the world’s energy demand increases, along with the need to be good stewards of the environment. As such, it makes sense to continue the work under the important DOE CCUS programs, to improve readiness, and to reduce the costs for widespread commercial CCUS implementation, not just in the United States but around the world.

This article was published in Air Pollution Control Magazine, June 2014.

FEATURED DOCUMENTARY– Water: The Lifeblood of Energy

Turning on the lights, driving to work, surfing the Web—energy is inextricably linked to water. With the greater need for energy, the demand for water will continue to increase. How can we balance the need for water in energy with water for crops, households, and factories? How can we make do with the water we have?

The Energy & Environmental Research Center’s (EERC’s) half-hour documentary “Water: The Lifeblood of Energy” describes the connection between water and energy and documents how clients and utilities across the western United States are collaborating, conserving, and utilizing new technology to squeeze more use out of every precious drop.


Energy and water are inseparable issues,” said Executive Producer and EERC Senior Research Manager, Bethany Kurz. “Energy generation requires water, and the treatment and distribution of water for commercial, industrial, and household uses requires energy. Similarly, irrigated agriculture requires energy to pump water to crops. As the population expands, there is an increasing demand for both energy and water which necessitates innovative strategies to conserve and supply these resources.”

Kurz added, “With the vibrant oil and gas, agricultural, and utility interests in the region, practical  water reuse synergies among these different industries is already occurring and should continue to be explored.”

Quick Facts

  • Energy and water demand are intimately linked.
  • Approximately 25 gallons of water is needed (primarily for steam cooling) to produce 1 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity, but only 2 gallons is lost in the process through evaporation.
  • According to the International Water Management institute, overall global energy use is expected to increase nearly 50% from 2007 to 2035.
  • Electricity production is projected to increase to over 5200 billion kWh by the year 2025.
  • By 2045, the world population will increase to 9 billion people, and water withdrawals are expected to increase by 50%.

“Water: The Lifeblood of Energy” was produced by Prairie Public Broadcasting in partnership with the EERC, the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory, and key stakeholders representing power generation utilities, oil and gas companies, industry, municipalities, and other entities interested in addressing critical water issues in the north-central United States.

To learn more about the water–energy nexus and innovative options for water treatment, reuse, and conservation, visit the EERC’s water management Web site at www.undeerc.org/water

Need Chemical or Environmental Analysis? Our customized approach provides quality data.

The Analytical Research Laboratory (ARL) at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is fully equipped for routine and specialized chemical and environmental analyses, including instrumentation ideal for low-level trace element detection. The laboratory provides quality data and flexibility, including rapid turnaround time, in support of research activities at the EERC and for outside clients.

“We are often compared to a commercial laboratory because of the types of analyses that we do and the instrumentation that we have,” says Carolyn Nyberg, Manager of the ARL. “There are similarities, and the ARL is very committed to producing high-quality data, but I strongly feel that we offer our clients so much more than just quality data.”

“Our analytical routine commonly starts with one-on-one conversations with clients to determine the best approach for sample analysis, and we also provide postanalysis interpretation of results when needed,” Nyberg adds. “We can often modify our schedules to accommodate ‘rush’ samples, and with proper planning, we are available to work flexible hours to support pilot-scale activities that run continuously and on weekends.”

The EERC has extensive experience in the analysis of many sample types, including the following:
  • Fossil fuels
  • Solid biofuels
  • Combustion by-products
  • Soil and sediments
  • Natural waters
  • Wastewater
  • Biological tissues (plant material, fish tissue)
“A number of years ago, the EERC was heavily involved in several water projects, primarily to determine the fate and transport of various chemicals in groundwater,” says Nyberg. “Water testing is again at the forefront of our work, but now it's in support of oil and gas and carbon capture and storage projects.”

For example, groundwater and surface water analyses are being performed to better characterize the water in the vicinity of an oil field. The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership, led by the EERC, is monitoring and studying the injection of over a million tons of CO2 per project into an oil field as part of its mission to assess the viability of carbon capture and storage underground.

The water analyses are performed preinjection and also during injection operations as part of the project’s monitoring, verification, and accounting program to ensure that the CO2 remains stored underground in the target injection zone. The EERC is working closely with the oil and gas industry to support commercial client’s needs for regulatory approvals on drill cuttings for beneficial reuse in North Dakota.

Laboratory procedures and analytical methods used at the ARL adhere to nationally and internationally recognized or approved standards and methods put forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ASTM International, Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, and other organizations. The ARL has several measures in place to ensure that data are of the highest quality:
  • The laboratory management system is guided by ISO 17025, which includes a written quality manual that defines every aspect of laboratory operation from document control to customer service to equipment operations to quality assurance of analytical data.
  • Detailed standard operating procedures are in place for the analytical methods routinely performed in the laboratory.
  • EPA guidelines are followed in order to ensure the precision and accuracy of test results.

The EERC has twelve unique laboratories to support research and technology development. Nyberg says that the EERC’s labs collaborate often, both to share equipment and expertise for the benefit of the client.

For more information on how the ARL can help you, visit the ARL online, or contact Carolyn Nyberg by phone at (701) 777-5057 or by e-mail at cnyberg@undeerc.org or contact Bethany Kurz by phone at (701) 777-5050 or by e-mail at bkurz@undeerc.org.

No Fuel Too Big or Too Small: EERC Fuel-Processing Facilities Provide Quality Results for Clients

When new energy systems are tested or the issues associated with existing systems are examined, quality processing of the fuel being tested is critical to ensure quality results. Each year, the EERC prepares over 150 different solid fuel samples in support of combustion and gasification research projects. If the fuel meets chemical, moisture, and size specifications, then the results will be representative and reproducible and will strengthen the long-term commercialization opportunity.

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has significant experience in processing a wide range of solid fuels from coal to biomass, such as wood pellets, coffee processing waste, switchgrass, cornstalks, railroad ties, poultry waste, and biosolids. Depending on the testing requirements, fuels ranging anywhere from 300 pounds to 20 tons of fuels are typically processed.

“Not that many facilities around the United States can process small batches of coal,” said EERC Senior Research Manager Jason Laumb. “At the EERC, we can receive any size coal from the mine and pulverize it. Our clients don’t have to send prepared coals here; it saves them a lot of time and money in the demonstration process,” he said.

The EERC also has significant experience with fuel blends. A custom process is performed to mix in other products, such as raw wood or a specified adsorbent additive. With the majority of projects requiring just a single day of testing, the EERC can process several different coal sources each week.

“In the combustion test facility, we are running a minimum of 2 or 3 days of testing each week,” said Laumb. “The quality of the pulverized fuel sample is often critical to achieving quality results for clients.”

Once the fuel is thoroughly mixed and dried to specification, it is moved into a hopper which is then sealed to prevent contamination. The hopper is next transported to any number of technologies for testing within the EERC’s demonstration facilities, including the fluid-bed gasifier, the combustion test furnace, the entrained-flow gasifier, the circulating fluid-bed gasifier, or the transport reactor development unit.

For more information about the EERC’s fuel prep facilities and how they can support your technology evaluations, contact Jason Laumb at (701) 777-5114 or jlaumb@undeerc.org.

First Shareholder Meeting for EERC Partner, ME2C: A Model of Success in Technology Commercialization

Midwest Energy Emissions Corp (OTCQB: MEEC), a market leader in mercury control systems for the coal-fired power industry, held an Annual Meeting of Shareholders at the Energy& Environmental Research Center (EERC).
During the meeting, shareholders gathered to vote to reelect board members (left) and other measures that were up for shareholder vote. Additionally, the company then held a general business update meeting thereafter to review the Company’s third-quarter results.

“This is a very proud moment for all of us at ME2C,” said President and CEO, R. Alan Kelley.
“The opportunity to share our success with our shareholders is another important milestone. After 20 years of dedicated research and technology development, this technology is in a very strong position to make a significant impact on the coal-fired power sector in mercury control. We now have 15 coal-fired power generation units under contract and are looking forward to many more opportunities ahead.”

ME2C’s patented SEATM technology (pioneered by a team of researchers at the EERC) uses a combination of materials tailored and formulated specifically to customers’ coal-fired power units. The technology is an effective and economically sound solution to achieving mercury emission capture rates of over 90% in coal-fired power plants.
“ME2C, the EERC, and the EERC Foundation® have had a long and mutually beneficial partnership,” said EERC Director Tom Erickson. “We are honored to host and participate in ME2C’s shareholder meeting at our facilities in Grand Forks where this technology was conceived. This partnership is the model for licensing and commercialization of our technologies, and we look forward to working alongside ME2C.”
The Company reported third-quarter revenues of $1.37 million, up 49% over the previous year.  The Company also announced the appointment of John Pavlish as Chief Technology Officer.
“John comes to us from the world-renowned Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC).  We have worked with John for a long time as part of the EERC where he was the key contributor to the development of the patented technology that MEEC has now commercialized for mercury control," said Kelley.
Mr. Kelley concluded, “This is a great day for our Company, as we announce significant growth in revenues, timely execution for our customers, and the broadening out of our team with industry-leading talent. As we look ahead, our focus continues to be on delivering maximum value to shareholders, leading-edge execution and quality for our customers, and a material focus on innovation.”
For more information, view the full EERC news release. 
To find out about how the EERC can develop emission control solutions for you, please contact Tom Erickson, EERC Director, at (701) 777-5130.

EERC Bakken Production Optimization Program Receives Stewardship Award

The Energy & Environmental Research Center Bakken Production Optimization Program received the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission's (IOGCC’s) 2014 Chairman’s Stewardship Award for Environmental Partnership. The award was presented by 2014 IOGCC Vice Chair Cathy Foerster, Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, during the IOGCC Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Read the full news release...


Pictured left to right: Lynn Helms, North Dakota Industrial Commission Oil and Gas Division; Dave Searle, Marathon Oil; John Harju, EERC; Dawn Coughlin, Hess; Jack Ekstrom, Whiting; Eileen Dey, ConocoPhillips; Cathy Foerster, Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission; Mark Johnsrud, Nuverra Environmental Solutions; and Roger Kelley, Continental Resources. Unable to join in accepting were representatives of Hitachi, Oasis, SM Energy, and XTO Energy.


EERC Bakken Production Optimization Program team (back, from left to right): Chad Wocken, Jay Almlie, John Hamling, John Harju, Steve Hawthorne, Brad Stevens, and Lisa Botnen; (front, left to right) Grant Dunham, Jim Sorensen, Lucia Romuld, Ed Steadman, Beth Kurz, and Dan Stepan.

EERC’s Optical Microscopy Technique Focuses on Rock Porosity and Permeability

EERC Research Scientist Blaise Mibeck is experimenting with optical microscope image analysis techniques such as extended depth of field (EDF) and image segmentation to enhance the analysis of rock samples in order to study the porosity, or open space between grains of the rock, and permeability, a measure of the ease with which a fluid can move through a porous rock.

EDF allows the EERC to make high-resolution 2-D and 3-D images of core samples from oil and gas reservoirs and saline formations that can show detailed structure and composition of the rock and its porosity. Image segmentation simplifies digital images to make them easier to analyze quantitatively. Mibeck calls these techniques “more tools in the toolbox” for delivering information to improve oil and gas recovery and CO2storage in environmentally safe ways.

Mibeck develops experimental apparatus and analytical techniques in the EERC’s Natural Materials Analytical Research Laboratory. His work also involves quantitative phase analysis, powder x-ray diffraction, optical microscopy, and other material science techniques for the analysis of geologic samples.

“The microscopic structure of the rock is responsible for the macroscopic behavior of the formation,” said Mibeck. “Knowing what the pores look like and what is coating the grains, the size distribution of the pores and fractures, as well as how they connect to each other can provide information to help predict how a formation is going to behave when something is pumped into it or out of it, as in enhanced oil recovery or CO2storage.

“I am always interested in getting as much useful information out of an analytical technique as possible,” said Mibeck.

Optical microscopy is a common and relatively inexpensive means of analyzing rock samples. Unfortunately, at high magnifications it has a limited depth of field, making it difficult to image the entire thickness of a sample in focus. However, with the EDF technique, Mibeck is able to make high-resolution 2-D images or even 3-D images from a series of narrow-focus 2-D images. The EDF technique produces a higher-resolution image, allowing researchers to see smaller features. It provides a third dimension that is useful in clarifying the surface of pore walls, grain boundaries, and intergrain structure.

In the animated images shown below, the blue areas indicate pore space, or porosity, in the rock.

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“There is no easy way to observe fluid flowing through individual pores,” said Mibeck, “but we can use image analysis to get important information like how tortuous (twisty) the pores are in a sample, what the distribution of pore size is. This information is useful for understanding the history of the formation and may also allow predictions of how the formation will behave.

“Understanding the rock structure is critical to understanding how injections of water, CO2, or H2S will enhance oil production,” said Mibeck. “By determining the surface area of different minerals on the pore wall, we can predict how changing fluid conditions (such as pH) will change porosity,” he said.

For more information on EDF, image segmentation, or other optical microscope laboratory techniques, contact Blaise Mibeck at bmibeck@undeerc.org. For more information on the Natural Materials Analytical Research Laboratory, contact Beth Kurz at (701) 777-5050 or at bkurz@undeerc.org, or find information on the EERC Web site at www.undeerc.org/Facilities/Labs/Materials.aspx.

New Video: Installing a Casing-Conveyed Permanent Downhole Monitoring System

Both CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations and CO2 geologic storage operations can benefit from continuous pressure and temperature monitoring of the producing or storage reservoir and the overlying rock layers. Permanent downhole monitoring (PDM) uses casing-conveyed temperature and pressure acquisition systems to provide continuous real-time information to support decision making and reservoir performance evaluations. 

This 20-minute video is intended to acquaint a technical audience with the basics of casing-conveyed PDM systems as well as the unique field installation practices that these systems require using an example from a CO2 EOR project in the Denbury Resources-operated Bell Creek oil field in southeastern Montana. 


For more information on the video, visit the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Web site or contact Charles D. GoreckiPCOR Partnership Program Manager, at (701) 777-5355 or cgorecki@undeerc.org

Newly Patented, Seeking Commercial Partners – Filter-Blinding Reversal Technology

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) Foundation has a newly patented technology (UnveilTM) to clean blinded filter bags to near-new performance, thus avoiding the very costly practice of replacing bags with significant useful life. 

Worldwide, thousands of baghouses are employed in hundreds of industries to control air emissions or to reclaim valuable substances from process gas. Each baghouse contains anywhere from 10 to 20,000 filter bags.

One major challenge with filter bags is “blinding”—the buildup of a tenacious amount of residual dust that is not removed by standard filter-cleaning methods. Filter blinding can cause costly increases in pressure drop, often limits the lifetime of filter bags inside the baghouse, and causes the operator to regularly replace entire sets of filter bags, adding significant operating costs.

But what if the existing installed bags could be renewed to like-new condition? The EERC’s Unveil technology achieves this cost-saving measure in a simple, low-cost application process.


Key Benefits
  • Significantly reduces bag replacement costs
  • Decreases system power consumption
  • Enhances performance of filtration system
  • Expands baghouse operational design envelope, leading to higher airflow, smaller footprint, and lower capital costs.
Watch an example of the Unveil treatment process returning a filter bag to original performance.


The EERC is looking for partners, with a proven commercial track record, interested in advancing this technology into the commercial marketplace. For more information on how to partner with the EERC on commercialization of Unveil, contact Jay Almlie, Senior Research Manager, at jalmlie@undeerc.org.


EERC’s Vision for North Dakota Energy Featured on 1100 AM The Flag

In a live radio broadcast from the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) Tuesday, newly appointed Director Tom Erickson discussed the EERC’s goal to be a visionary for energy technology innovation in the state of North Dakota with Radio Host, Scott Hennen, 1100 AM The Flag, Fargo, North Dakota.

The EERC is a key partner with the energy and oil and gas industries in North Dakota, leading the way in demonstration of viable, efficient, and environmentally friendly technologies that have worldwide impact. 

Associate Director for Research John Harju was also featured as a guest on Hennen’s radio show “Energy Matters,” along with Deputy Associate Director Mike Holmes, who both discussed key technical initiatives at the EERC, including carbon capture and sequestration, oil and gas exploration in the Bakken System, clean coal technologies, and enhanced oil recovery. 

Tom Erickson Named Director of UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center

Tom Erickson has been named Director of the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), UND Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo announced today. Erickson had been serving as Interim Director since July (Acting Director since May) and prior to that as Associate Director for Business, Operations, and Intellectual Property at the EERC.

DiLorenzo met with more than 30 individuals and groups as he considered the future leadership for the EERC.  “I thoroughly enjoyed my meetings, and I know that the innovative spirit and entrepreneurial drive at the EERC are strong. It is clear to me that good scientific inquiry is the basis for the work there while interest in energy and our environment is the driving passion,” said DiLorenzo.

Added DiLorenzo, “President (Robert) Kelley and I believe in Tom’s leadership abilities and in the team around him, and we believe that Tom and the team should continue to be given the opportunity to shine.”

"I am thrilled to accept this role. It is my honor to continue leading the outstanding staff at the EERC and working alongside the current leadership team and UND officials to map out a positive path forward," said Erickson.

Erickson and the EERC leadership team are committed to developing and enhancing strategic collaborative partnerships, protecting relevant intellectual property, and advancing EERC-developed technologies into the commercial marketplace.

In addition to Erickson, the EERC’s current leadership team consists of John Harju, Associate Director for Research; Deb Haley, Associate Director for Marketing, Outreach, and Administrative Resources; and Erin O’Leary, Interim Associate Director for Business and Operations, along with Deputy Associate Directors for Research Michael Holmes, Ed Steadman, and Chris Zygarlicke and Deputy Associate Director for Marketing, Outreach, and Administrative Resources Anne Fiala.

“I want to add how much we appreciate the efforts of the entire EERC staff as we have moved through this transition over the past several months,” said DiLorenzo.

“With a new financial plan in place, we are focused on strategically expanding our technical programs under development and strengthening our existing programs. With the strong and focused group of employees at the EERC, I am very confident of a bright future ahead,” said Erickson.  “I am also looking forward to working with Provost DiLorenzo on further collaborations with other key departments within the University family in order to strengthen relationships and build future research opportunities.”

Since 1983, the EERC has been transformed from a former federal R&D facility to a practical, entrepreneurial, market-driven organization with national and international clientele emphasizing working partnerships with industry, government, research, and academic institutions. During that time, the EERC has had nearly 1300 clients in 52 countries, over 960 of which have been from the private sector, including many Fortune 500 companies. The EERC's research portfolio totaled $202.5 million in fiscal year 2014.

The EERC, with its long tradition of fossil fuel-related R&D, has broadened its scope to include a wide array of strategic energy and environmental issues.  Erickson oversees efforts to address these issues through strategic initiatives focused on clean coal technologies; oil and gas industry technologies; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; energy and water sustainability; air toxics and fine particulate control; water management strategies; global climate change; waste utilization; hydrogen technologies; and contaminant cleanup.

Erickson began his career in 1986, when he was hired as a student at the UND Energy and Mineral Research Center. He was hired full-time as a Research Specialist in 1988. Over the years, he has held many different positions, including Research Engineer, Supervisor for Analytical Research, Research Manager, and Senior Research Manager. From 1999 to 2011, he served the EERC as an Associate Director for Research, where he focused on the development of advanced power and fuel systems from fossil and renewable energy sources.

Since 2011, Erickson has served as Associate Director for Business, Operations, and Intellectual Property, where he oversees activities related to safety, facilities, business functions, and protection and commercialization of intellectual property. The duties and responsibilities of this position are focused on providing facilities, engineering and construction support, accounting services, contracting services, business policies and practices, safe operations, and intellectual property protection and development to enable and enhance the cutting-edge research of the EERC.

Erickson earned both his B.S. and M.S degrees in Chemical Engineering from UND.

Legislative Committee Reviews Current Projects and Future Opportunities for EERC

The interim North Dakota Energy Development and Transmission Committee meeting was held at the EERC Thursday, October 16, 2014. During the committee meeting, EERC Director Tom Erickson presented information on the evolution and current status of the EERC, as well as activities that would be of great benefit to the state.

The committee also heard presentations from Associate Director for Research, John Harju, on the EERC’s Bakken Production Optimization Program, changing paradigms in carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery, and the Energy Polygeneration Industrial Complex (EPIC), a concept proposed by the EERC representing a new kind of energy facility, which will transform North Dakota’s abundant resources into clean, sustainable power and products for the world.

The interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee is assigned to study likely changes or future legislation on energy in the state. It works alongside two other committees for energy policy within the North Dakota Legislature: the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Attending Committee members included (pictured left to right) Representative Peter F. Silbernagel, Senator Philip M. Murphy, Representative Todd Porter (Vice Chairman), Senator Rich Wardner (Chairman), Representative Chuck Damschen, Senator Connie Triplett, Representative Ben W. Hanson, Representative Mike Schatz, and Timothy J. Dawson (Staff Counsel).

For more information on how the EERC is working to impact North Dakota, contact Tom Erickson, EERC Director, at (701) 777-5130, or terickson@undeerc.org.

PCOR Partnership Works Together to Solve Critical Issues

The Energy & Environmental Research Center’s (EERC’s) Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnershiphas a long-standing tradition of developing key relationships with its partners and providing the highest-quality service and the most value for their investment. The 2014 PCOR Partnership Annual Membership Meeting, held in September, proved no different. More than 85 people representing 52 organizations, 14 states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces traveled to Denver, Colorado, for the 2-day event, which was abuzz with lively discussions regarding CO2 storage and utilization.


The PCOR Partnership addresses CO2 management on a regional level in the upper Great Plains of North America. Through collaborative partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders, the PCOR Partnership demonstrates the value of carbon utilization and storage as a viable solution to national energy and environmental concerns.

Throughout the event, attendees heard presentations regarding recent PCOR Partnership program accomplishments and other key carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) projects and shared storage strategies, technologies, and regulatory developments. A roundtable discussion on the role of CCS in a dynamic (and contentious) regulatory environment featured Rob Bioletti, Alberta Department of Energy; Jason Bohrer, Lignite Energy Council; Kevin Connors, North Dakota Industrial Commission; Ken From, Petroleum Technology Research Centre; and Mike Moore, North American Carbon Capture and Storage Association, with John Harju, Associate Director for Research at the EERC as the facilitator. For a complete list of presenters, view the 2014 PCOR Partnership Annual Membership Meeting agenda.


EERC Senior Research Manager Charles Gorecki (center) presented 2014 PCOR Partnership Pioneer Awards, which honor outstanding service to CCUS and the PCOR Partnership, to Dwight Peters (left), President, Schlumberger Carbon Services, and Jim Erdle (right), Vice President/USA and Latin America, Computer Modelling Group Ltd.

Special event sponsors for the 2014 PCOR Partnership Annual Membership Meeting included Ballantyne Oil LLC, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the North American Coal Corporation, the North Dakota Petroleum Council, Schlumberger Carbon Services, Spectra Energy, and Xcel Energy.

For more information about the PCOR Partnership or to inquire about becoming a member, contact Charles Gorecki at (701) 777-5355 or cgorecki@undeerc.org.

EERC Foundation® Board Focused on Advancing Technology Development

The Energy &Environmental Research Center Foundation® (EERC Foundation®) Board meeting in Grand Forks on Thursday, October 9, centered around the board’s continued commitment to the protection and commercialization of EERC-developed technologies. Since 1992, the nonprofit corporation has provided a dedicated infrastructure to support commercialization activities and houses the rights to technologies developed by the EERC.

Through two decades of experience meeting a wide variety of unique client needs, the EERC Foundation has developed highly flexible and innovative approaches to a variety of business arrangements. Currently, the EERC Foundation technology portfolio contains dozens of EERC-developed products, with 40 active patents issued and 60 patents pending.
  

The EERC Foundation Board Members include:

Front (left to right): Alice Brekke, University of North Dakota; John Snustad (Secretary/Treasurer), U.S. Bank; Bob Harris (President), Harris Group, Inc.; Chris Greenberg (Vice President), Global Safety Network; and DeAnna Carlson Zink, UND Alumni Association and Foundation.

Back (left to right): Tom Erickson, EERC; Robert Kelley, University of North Dakota; David Straley, North American Coal Corporation; Mark Johnsrud, Nuverra Environmental Solutions; and Ron Ness, North Dakota Petroleum Council.

Board members also toured the EERC’s facilities during their meeting—an opportunity for them to hear about current and ongoing innovations under development at the EERC.

For more information about the EERC Foundation, contact Tom Erickson, EERC Interim Director, at (701) 777-5130 or terickson@undeerc.org.

New EERC Employee

Xiaofeng (Jennifer) Zhang is a Research Scientist – Geophysics at the EERC, where she develops geophysical models of the subsurface; performs reservoir characterization, petrophysical analyses, and reservoir simulations; and interfaces with a diverse team of scientists and engineers to apply cross-disciplinary approaches to address key technical challenges in oil and gas development and geologic CO2storage.

Zhang’s principal areas of interest and expertise include 2-D and 3-D surface and vertical seismic profile data processing, interpretation, and inversion; geophysical model development and reservoir characterization; well-logging interpretation and geologic modeling; and interpreting and resolving exploration and production issues. She is also interested in hydraulic fracturing design.

“I like the working environment of the EERC,” Zhang said. “People are open and helpful, projects are interesting, and managers are very supportive.”

Previously, Zhang worked as a Petroleum Engineer and as a Production Engineer for Yushulin Oil Company, PetroChina. She holds an M.S. degree in Geophysics from the University of Wyoming and a B.S. degree in Petroleum Engineering from Northeast Petroleum University (Daqing Petroleum Institute), China.

When not working, Zhang and her husband enjoy time spent with their son, who is 16 months old. 

Unlocking Unconventional Reservoirs Through Enhanced Characterization

“It’s an exciting time to be working in geology in North Dakota. I’m fortunate to work here—new and complex questions come up every day, and the EERC has the equipment and expertise to answer those questions,” said Steve Smith, EERC Research Manager and Manager of the EERC’s Applied Geology Laboratory (AGL).

The AGL’s work is focused on providing critical information for answering questions related to energy research in oil and gas production and CO2 utilization and storage, much of its work evaluating oil fields, oil production methods and materials, and saline aquifers with respect to their potential for enhanced oil production and CO2sequestration.

In July, Bakken Formation oil production hit 1.1 million barrels of oil a day. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Bakken and Three Forks Formations have between 300 and 900 billion barrels (Bbbl) of oil, with 10 to 24 Bbbl technically recoverable using today’s technologies. While development of the Bakken oil and gas play is enhancing our economy and national energy security, it has challenges, but Smith said he finds the challenges to retrieving that oil both interesting and fulfilling.

Although the EERC continues to provide focused solutions in all energy areas, over the past few years, emphasis has increased on investigations related to oil and gas production and carbon capture, utilization, and storage. In that time, the Center has developed new, state-of-the-art analytical capabilities for determining key properties of rocks and materials used throughout the petroleum industry and has relied on the expertise and experience of our personnel working in existing laboratory facilities to provide additional detail.

The AGL is one of 12 laboratories at the EERC, serving various projects for the EERC as well as for outside clients. The lab is actively pursuing research into petrophysics, geochemistry, and geomechanics and is capable of characterizing the physical and chemical properties of rocks as they pertain to oil recovery and/or carbon storage. Much of the AGL’s work involves petrographic and routine core analysis looking at the porosity (holes between grains) of rock samples and their intrinsic permeability (the ability of liquid to flow through the holes in the rock), but that work serves as the foundation for the work that Smith considers to be the real expertise of the AGL: its ability to perform advanced evaluations, including the evaluation of naturally occurring versus induced fractures in the Bakken, strength determination of proppants, and two-phase relative permeability.

“Our core analyses give us a fundamental understanding of the reservoirs we are dealing with—the mineralogy of these rocks and how much pore space is in them (the pore throat size). Then we can determine what fluids occupy that pore space and how well those fluids are able to flow from one point to the next,” said Smith.

The AGL’s advanced applications can characterize formations to inform the well drilling, stimulation or hydraulic fracturing of the surrounding rock, and well completion (the running of tubing and lines to finish off the well) processes. The AGL has looked at hydraulic fracturing techniques and how the materials used there, such as proppants and the fluids used to transmit them, are performing. At the reservoir scale, the AGL is making links between pore throat sizes and capillary entry pressures, or pressure regimes, in the reservoir. Ultimately, the goal is to understand the practices that are currently employed in an effort to make improvements that ensure sustained movement of fluids throughout the reservoir.

“Two projects we are working on right now serve as great examples of the extremes we are dealing with,” said Smith. “One’s a conventional, traditional clastic reservoir in the early stages of CO2tertiary oil recovery where we’ve been focused on advanced reservoir characterization, and the other is a less conventional, tight reservoir—the Bakken—from which we’re developing innovative techniques to determine how best to optimize aspects of both surface and subsurface processes, ultimately yielding higher production values for both oil and associated gas resources. Both projects are equally challenging and require the full attention of our multidisciplinary staff. Of course, none of these projects would move forward without the involvement of our industry partners. It is through these partnerships that we grow our understanding of these complex reservoirs, both conventional and unconventional.

“Much of our work involves developing an understanding of how multiple fluids behave in a reservoir. Today, for example, we’re pushing CO2 and brine through a Bakken rock sample. That’s going to tell us if these rocks have an affinity for one fluid versus the other and help our partners to make informed decisions regarding strategic planning,” Smith added. “When we start to talk about how easily, or with how much difficulty, these fluids move through these rock samples, it’s all going to come down to a specific handful of variables that we are currently positioned to evaluate through a myriad of physical laboratory tests and validate using state-of-the-art software packages common to the petroleum industry.”

Another large EERC project is the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership and its quest to safely store CO2. Smith said about 98% to 99% of the AGL’s work is focused on both oil and gas and on CO2 storage, but the two are linked.

“CO2 enhanced oil recovery is likely the bridge to large-scale carbon capture and storage,” said Smith.

Over the last 10 years, the EERC has been involved in multiple demonstration projects whereby CO2 is safely injected into the subsurface for the dual purpose of enhanced oil recovery leading to incidental CO2 storage. The AGL has played a role in each of these projects through the characterization of rock samples representing both storage sinks and seals.

Smith points out that the AGL works in tandem with the other labs at the EERC and relies on a multidisciplinary staff to answer the questions of its clients. Geologists and engineers work together to develop laboratory-based data sets that are then fed into static and dynamic reservoir simulations.


“The EERC is good at forming relationships and staying focused on the task at hand,” said Smith. “We are committed to this day in and day out. We are in tune with the research communities and, most importantly, our partners’ needs. We’ve developed excellent relations with the oil and gas community within and outside of the Williston Basin. While the Bakken is somewhat unique in its geology and the approach to producing oil from it, we can still gain incremental knowledge by listening to our partners from outside of the region and working together on new approaches to drilling, completion, and characterization activities. This is particularly true of CO2 injection for enhanced oil recovery. This practice has been ongoing for over 4 decades and has the potential to be one mechanism to add to the world-class success the Bakken is currently seeing.”

“Our goal is to produce data sets that will enhance the oil production from the Williston Basin. Enhancing production by just 1% could result in recovering up to 9 Bbbl of additional oil,” said Smith. “The Bakken Formation has been the toughest for us so far, but tight unconventional oil plays have been identified worldwide. The information we get from the Bakken is really going to aid in the development of these newly emerging systems. So while we’re concerned with the Bakken on a local level, this work has global implications.”

For more information on the AGL or other EERC laboratories, see or contact Steve Smith, EERC Research Manager, at (701) 777-5108 or Beth Kurz, Senior Research Manager, at (701) 777-5050.

Bakken Map Demand Remains High – For Sale Now!

The EERC debuted the fourth edition of the Bakken map, “Regional Drilling Activity in the Bakken Petroleum System,” at the 2014 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference (WBPC) in May. The 2-ft × 3-ft map displays regional drilling activity in the Bakken system in western North Dakota and portions of Montana and Saskatchewan.

First launched in 2011, the map has been updated yearly. The EERC accumulated a great degree of knowledge regarding the Bakken system through the EERC’s oil and gas programs.

The map illustrates where activity occurred in 2013 and the magnitude of that activity. This edition also features past Bakken petroleum system wells and locations of gas-processing plants.

Each year, the map has included a graphical representation of a relevant focus topic. This year the focus is on high-density infill drilling. Infill drilling optimizes and maximizes the economic returns and estimated ultimate recoveries of oil and gas in the region. The locations of select high-density well pads are called out.

Designed and produced by the EERC in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, the North Dakota Petroleum Council, and support from 22 industry sponsors, the Bakken map has become a staple among the oil and gas industry and has proven to be a valuable resource for those with a stake in North Dakota’s oil boom.

Order your map today!

New EERC Employee

Kyle Gjerding is a Drafter at the EERC, where he creates conceptual process designs and produces drawings to fabricate equipment systems in support of projects related to hydrogen systems, renewable fuels, advanced energy systems, and emission measurement and control. He has produced blueprints, 3-D models, and process flow diagrams for a coal sequestration system, a hydrogen-producing on-demand system, a transport reactor development unit feed system, and a pilot-scale advanced biomass gasification system and has conducted operation and testing of a 4-lb reactor.

“I enjoy the variety of work that is given to me here at the EERC,” said Gjerding. “Being able to work on multiple projects allows me to learn something different every day.”    

Gjerding earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Park University in 2014. He plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of North Dakota. Gjerding has worked at the EERC since 2008, first as a student employee and then as a temporary part-time employee. Originally a mechanical engineering student, Gjerding has done consulting work in the auto industry and worked as an intern for two summers for a construction firm building the San Diego Federal Courthouse and the University of California, San Diego, Biomedical Facility. 

Gjerding enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. He has competed in the Tough Mudder obstacle course challenge, the Color Run, and the Uffda Mud Run, and he also teaches fitness classes at Choice Health and Fitness. 

INFOGRAPHIC: EERC FY2014 Financials Released


The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has released its financial stats from fiscal year 2014, ending June 30, 2014. Over the course of the year, the EERC received $24.5 million in new contracts, for a total research portfolio of more than $202 million.

With 216 active contracts (96% with nonfederal entities) throughout the fiscal year, the EERC generated an overall regional economic impact of $83.7 million. To see more FY14 EERC stats, visit our Economic Impactpage.


For more information, contact Derek Walters, EERC Marketing, Communications, and Outreach Manager at (701) 777-5113 or dwalters@undeerc.org.