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“My time with the Energy & Environmental Research Center [EERC] was, without a doubt, one of the pivotal moments that helped guide me to where I am today,” said Justin Kringstad, Director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority (NDPA) and former student employee at the EERC.

A native of Bismarck, North Dakota, Kringstad graduated from the University of North Dakota (UND) in 2007 with a degree in Geological Engineering. He is just one of more than 350 students (undergraduate through postdoctorate) who have worked at the EERC through its applied research programs to receive on-the-job training.

“We provide opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field,” said Jim Sorensen (UND, ’91), Senior Research Manager at the EERC and Kringstad’s former supervisor. “During his time here, Kringstad was part of the EERC’s Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership team. He worked on our reservoir characterization and simulation project, which was focused on injecting large-scale CO2 volumes in the Broom Creek Formation in western North Dakota.”

Employment opportunities for students at the EERC have ranged from multiple years of project work to summer cooperatives. In fact, a number of engineering students have utilized EERC project experience for graduate theses. In addition to technical positions, the EERC also employs students in administrative and service roles.

“To work side by side with world-class experts in cutting-edge research facilities was exactly what I needed to push myself academically and professionally. The character traits and professionalism I experienced during my time at the EERC are still influencing me today,” Kringstad said.

He says the most valuable lesson he took from his experience at the EERC was that to be successful, people need to keep expanding their knowledge base and not settle for the status quo.

“It was critical for me to learn how to connect the material I learned in the classroom with outside research and then apply it to real-world challenges. The icing on the cake is that the professional colleagues and friendships I established at the EERC are still being fostered today,” Kringstad said.

The North Dakota Legislature established NDPA in 2007, and Kringstad was named Director in 2008 by the North Dakota Industrial Commission. The nonregulatory organization is tasked with facilitating the development of pipeline and processing infrastructure to meet the growing levels of crude oil and natural gas production.

Since being hired, Kringstad has been extremely busy overseeing the planning, siting, and construction of intrastate and interstate pipelines needed to enhance North Dakota’s energy resources and encourage the export of those resources. Kringstad says the state is in need of newer, larger pipelines to accomplish that goal.

“From a big-picture view, North Dakota’s pipeline infrastructure is still relatively young. Going forward, there will be ongoing efforts to build additional pipeline systems to not only move products to consumers outside of the region, but also to expand the smaller gathering network in order to reduce flaring and safely move fluids within the producing fields of North Dakota,” he said.

While the tasks keep piling on, Kringstad is well equipped to handle the challenges and says he has UND and the EERC to thank for setting the stage for a continued successful career.

“I’m blessed to have lived in North Dakota my whole life, and I have every intention of staying here and focusing my career on the safe and efficient development of North Dakota’s vast energy resources,” he said.

Even current students are seeing the positive value that the EERC offers, much like Kringstad described. One of the EERC’s current student employees, Tyler Newman, a senior mechanical engineering major at UND, is part of the EERC–UND Student Collaboration and Engagement Program, sponsored by UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo. The program is fostering a strong link between the EERC and UND's academic programs, such as engineering and geology.

As part of his “discovery” paper, which is being incorporated into a larger report to the Provost on the program, Newman stated that the most important thing he’s taken away from his time at the EERC is the collaborative learning environment.

“Other than my exposure to group work in senior design, the EERC has taught me how important group work is,” said Newman. “It has allowed me to develop stronger communication skills, challenge assumptions, refine understanding through discussion and explanation, and manage my time effectively. The employees at the EERC share diverse perspectives, allowing them to tackle much more complex tasks than any one person could do individually,” he said.