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Introducing Austin McRae

The EERC welcomes T. Austin McRae as a Research Engineer, where he is involved with process engineering and design for wellsite operations, pipeline transport, and environmental science related to oilfield operations. He holds a B.S. degree in Petroleum Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

Austin’s principal areas of interest and expertise include petroleum industry operations and support, specifically well stimulation; enhancing coordination between energy industry and environmental efforts through improved technology, practice, and understanding; and advanced energy technologies.

“I am most excited about working with a team of dedicated and diverse individuals to understand and solve energy-related issues in a scientific and responsible manner,” Austin said. “The warm and friendly welcome from the EERC staff so far has further added to my enthusiasm moving into this new career path.”

Previously, Austin worked as a Field Engineer in the hydraulic fracturing division of Baker Hughes Pressure Pumping in New Mexico and Texas, mainly in the Delaware and Midland Basins. Austin’s primary responsibilities involved assisting in job design and pre-job planning, monitoring pressure readouts and job parameters, and generating posttreatment and regulatory reports. Key functions of his position and the engineering department included ensuring quality technical product and service delivery through laboratory and field fluid system testing, technician management, on-site job monitoring, and customer interaction.

Austin said he became aware of the oil industry quite early, being a child of two career industry professionals. Throughout high school, he gravitated toward physics and earth sciences, specifically enjoying a geology elective.

“Instead of following my parents down the geoscience route, I pursued petroleum engineering at the Colorado School of Mines,” he said. “Since then I’ve been continually captivated by the engineering, complex operating conditions, continuous improvements, and challenges of today’s petroleum and broader energy environment.”

Raised in New Orleans from an early age, Austin said he is finding the cold weather here “quite refreshing” after an 80° November in New Orleans. However, he expects that he will miss the food there, especially the seafood.

“No other place I’ve visited in the country or the world has come close to matching the broad range of culinary influence and extensive quality of New Orleans cuisine,” he said. “I’ll also miss the laidback, near-constant celebratory atmosphere as well as easy access to world-class inshore and offshore fishing.”

In addition to fishing, Austin’s interests outside of work include hiking, “attempting to play golf,” swimming, and other “generally leisurely” outdoor activities. He also enjoys traveling, meeting new people, reading, seeking out and sampling local beer, going to the movies, and “just about anything Star Wars.”

Introducing Neil Wildgust

The EERC is pleased to welcome Neil Wildgust as a Principal CCS Scientist. In this position, he leads projects and risk assessment activities related to CO2 storage and enhanced oil recovery (EOR), working with team members to prepare and lead proposals and develop and manage project scopes of work, objectives, personnel, and budgets. His areas of interest and expertise include carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCS); EOR; and project management. He holds an M.Sc. degree in Applied Environmental Geology from Cardiff University, Wales, and a B.Sc. degree in Geology from the University of Southampton, England.

Prior to joining the EERC, Neil was the Manager for Geological Storage with the Global CCS Institute, responsible for leading the storage advisory team across the institute and managing relationships with Canadian members. He has also worked for the IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme (IEAGHG) and for the Petroleum Technology Research Centre, managing the IEAGHG Weyburn–Midale research project.

In addition to Neil’s experience with CCS projects and research across the world, he is a chartered geologist (United Kingdom) and has 25 years of industrial experience in mining, land contamination, and hydrogeology. He has also recently been appointed an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control.

Neil’s interest in CCS came about almost by chance. In the mid-2000s, he was working as a hydrogeologist for power utility EON in the UK. His supervisor was an air quality scientist responsible for tracking developments in CCS technology.

“He sent me to the 2006 GHGT conference in Trondheim, Norway, to learn about CO2 geologic storage. The sheer scale of ambitions for CCS—the challenge of isolating huge quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere over a small number of decades to mitigate impacts on the climate—had me hooked very quickly,” Neil said.

“My bias has inevitably been toward the storage side of CCS over the last decade. If capture is the expensive part of most CCS projects, storage is usually the uncertain part, and there are a great range of technical advances being researched to better manage and reduce these uncertainties. EOR remains the predominant form of storage and a key driver for the wider deployment of CCS,” he added.

“The PCOR Partnership has an outstanding reputation well beyond the United States and Canada, and Bell Creek has provided the EERC and the PCOR Partnership with a world-class storage research project, so I’m excited to have the chance to get involved in those efforts,” said Neil.

“The location of the EERC at the heart of a resource-rich region, together with expertise and facilities covering so many aspects of applied energy research, is a powerful combination. The EERC has a reputation of working closely with industry clients and striving to exceed expectations. My first weeks here have impressed on me how deeply ingrained this culture is within the organization,” he remarked.

Neil and his wife have four grown children and two granddaughters who all live in the UK. Holidays and time together on either side of the Atlantic are precious, he said, and “usually crammed with as much fun as possible to keep everyone happy.” Neil spent “vast swaths” of spare time playing cricket and “real football” (soccer) in the past but declared he has retired from both.

Introducing Dr. Jivan Thakare

The EERC welcomes Research Engineer Dr. Jivan Thakare to the EERC, where he performs process engineering and design related to wellsite operations, pipeline transport, and environmental science as it relates to oilfield operations. He holds a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of North Dakota (UND), an M.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University, and a B.S. degree in Polymer Technology from India. Jivan has worked as a researcher at the EERC previously.

Jivan has a strong background in natural gas engineering and process simulation, and his principal areas of interest and expertise include oil and gas production optimization, process modeling, emission control and environmental remediation, materials for renewable energy/fuels and energy devices, and data reduction. Jivan has expertise in quality control and quality functions and has experience with bringing product lines through the transitional stages from research and prototype to full production and distribution.

Some of the projects Jivan has worked on at the EERC are computational model development, evaluation of potential nitric oxide chelating agents, electrochemical gas-to-liquid technology development, and reservoir history-matching modeling. He has developed concepts and grant proposals for electrocatalyst and electrochemical process research regarding electrolytic ammonia synthesis, electrolytic gas-to-liquid conversion, and innovative PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell catalyst support.

“I am really cherishing the opportunities I get at the EERC to work on interdisciplinary research projects, which suit my versatile background well,” Jivan said. “My supervisors and colleagues at the EERC believe in empowering team members and are always open to new ideas.”

Jivan comes from Shegaon, in the state of Maharashtra, India. Jivan and his wife, a graduate student at UND, have a 3-year-old son and are expecting another baby. In his spare time, Jivan enjoys sports, especially cricket.

EERC, NETL, and Hitachi High-Technologies America, Inc., to Improve the Prediction of CO2 Storage Capacity in Geologic Formations

The EERC is working with the Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Hitachi High-Technologies America, Inc., to improve assessment methods for estimating the storage capacity of carbon dioxide (CO2) in tight shale formations, such as the Bakken. The project is funded by NETL with cost share provided by Hitachi.

“Although significant progress has been made globally to investigate the suitability of subsurface geologic sinks for CO2 storage, there is a lack of detailed geologic and petrophysical data needed to develop better techniques for assessing CO2 storage resources within unconventional formations,” said Bethany Kurz, EERC Principal Hydrogeologist, Laboratory Analysis Group Lead.

EERC researchers will develop advanced analytical techniques to better understand and quantify the distribution of clay minerals, organics, pore networks, and fractures in representative shale and tight rock samples. The analytical methods will be developed using imagery collected from a field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM), which provides the high-resolution images necessary for detection and characterization of the formation.

Project participant and cosponsor Hitachi High-Technologies America, Inc., will work alongside the EERC to improve the data processing and image analysis within the FESEM software.

“We are so pleased to be working with Hitachi on this project,” continued Kurz. “One of the key challenges in estimating CO2 storage capacity in organic-rich shale is that the analytical equipment and methods used to evaluate conventional reservoirs are limited when applied to shales that require analysis at such a small scale. Hitatchi’s technology and image analysis expertise will greatly improve our ability to efficiently identify and quantify key features of interest within the shales and other tight rocks.”

“Working with the EERC offers an exciting opportunity to utilize and develop Hitachi electron imaging technologies for the advanced characterization of unconventional reservoirs,” said Chad Ostrander, VP/GM of Hitachi High-Technologies Canada, Inc. “The potential technology improvements offer both environmental and economic benefits on a global scale, and Hitachi is pleased to be part of this initiative.”

The effects of CO2 exposure on shale samples will also be analyzed by scientists at NETL’s CT Scanning Lab in Morgantown, West Virginia. NETL staff will also be involved to ensure that the project supports the goals of the Carbon Storage Program, which aims to improve the ability to predict CO2 storage capacity in geologic formations to within ±30%.

More about Hitachi High-Technologies America, Inc.

Introducing Shane Filipy

The EERC welcomes Shane Filipy as a Building Services Technician (BST) at the EERC, where he cleans and maintains specific areas of the EERC building complex. The quality and appearance of the EERC facilities have garnered many compliments from clients and visitors through the years, due in large part to the efforts of the Building Services team. Maintaining those high standards is something Shane and the BSTs do extremely well. 

“I like the décor of the buildings,” Shane said. “I like the people I work with, and I have a great boss,” he said of EERC Building Services Supervisor Don Schaffer, who oversees the training, scheduling, and administrative aspects of the EERC’s Building Services team and their work.

Shane has worked at the University of North Dakota (UND) for 2 and a half years. Before coming to the EERC, he first started in Building Services at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. It seems Shane has always been drawn to jobs that require him to be detail-oriented. He was a supervisor at a car wash in Grand Forks for 23 years before he started at UND.

“Shane is a very hard worker and has great attention to detail,” Schaffer said. “I am very proud of him and my team for providing EERC employees and clients with the cleanest and nicest looking facility around. They take great pride in their work, and it shows.”

Originally a native of Thompson, North Dakota, Shane has lived in Grand Forks for 36 years. Shane likes to go fishing and Frisbee (disc) golfing with his 16-year-old son, who is a sophomore at Red River High School. 

Red Trail Energy and EERC to Assess the Expansion of Ethanol Production Through Carbon Capture and Storage

North Dakota ethanol producer Red Trail Energy, LLC (RTE) and the EERC have been awarded $490,000 by the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Renewable Energy Program in support of a study examining the integration of carbon capture and storage (CCS) at a North Dakota ethanol facility to reduce the carbon footprint associated with ethanol production.

“Using CCS to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of North Dakota ethanol demonstrates the commitment of the industry to environmental stewardship as well as contributes to the long-term sustainability of ethanol production in the state,” said Gerald Bachmeier, RTE CEO. “CCS may be an economical option for reducing the CI of ethanol to qualify for market incentives by meeting low-carbon fuel programs in other states,” he said.

The study will determine the technical and economic parameters of installing and operating a commercial CCS system at RTE’s ethanol manufacturing facility near Richardton, North Dakota. The facility produces approximately 63 MMgal of ethanol annually.

The Broom Creek Formation, located approximately 6400 feet below the RTE facility, will be considered the main horizon injection point for potential geologic storage of the CO2. According to previous studies conducted by the EERC, this formation is expected to be an ideal storage horizon.

“North Dakota ethanol producers are well situated to take advantage of these low-carbon fuel incentives because there is significant production capacity and ideal geology for carbon storage,” said project manager Kerryanne Leroux, EERC Senior Chemical Engineer, Oilfield Operations Team Lead. “The study will provide local ethanol producers with a detailed assessment of the commercial feasibility of utilizing CCS technology within their production operations,” she stated.

More broadly, the project will provide a template for implementation within the state and promote North Dakota renewable energy production. The total project, with cost share, is valued at $980,000.

Senator Hoeven Kicks Off Project Tundra

U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) joined representatives from Minnkota Power Cooperative, ALLETE Clean Energy, and the EERC to formalize their partnership and sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to advance Project Tundra.

Project Tundra aims to develop next-generation, advanced, full-plant scrubbing technologies to retrofit existing plants to capture CO2, which can then be sequestered or used in enhanced oil recovery.

The MOU was signed by Al Rudeck, President of ALLETE Clean Energy; Mac McLennan, President & CEO of Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc.; Wade Boeshans, President and General Manager of BNI Energy; and Tom Erickson, CEO.

“We’re working to secure funding to help advance new clean coal technologies,” said Hoeven. “That includes $30 million in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill to advance projects, like Project Tundra, that will enable us to create more energy with better environmental stewardship. This memorandum today formalizes the partnership on Project Tundra and brings together Minnkota and ALLETE expertise with the EERC’s innovative research to develop the clean coal technologies of the future.”

As a member of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to secure $30 million in funding to help develop commercially viable carbon capture and sequestration, like Project Tundra, in the Senate’s fiscal year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which the Senate passed in May.

Earlier this month, Hoeven arranged a meeting between North Dakota energy industry leaders and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to encourage the Energy Department to partner with the state’s industry to develop and implement commercially viable clean coal technologies and to make the case for the Energy Department to support Project Tundra as well as an Allam Cycle pilot project to develop technologies for new power plants.

Hoeven also serves as a member of the Senate Energy Committee, where he continues working to advance the development and deployment of innovative technologies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the nation’s energy development. To this end, the senator worked to pass the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, which includes legislation authored and introduced by Hoeven to help streamline energy regulations and address common problems faced by energy producers and consumers.

New EERC Employee: Shane Butler

The EERC welcomes Shane Butler to the EERC team as an Analytical Geologist, where he will work with clients to perform and interpret chemical and mineralogical analyses of rocks, clay, coal, and other materials using x-ray diffraction (XRD) and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) to develop and advance EERC analytical techniques related to unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, shales, and other tight formations.

Prior to his position at the EERC, Shane served for 8 years as a Geologic Specialist with the Illinois State Geological Survey. Shane’s expertise includes identification of mixed-layer clay minerals in soil and rock samples; the coupling of XRD, XRF, and environmental scanning electron microscopy for the characterization of rock, soil, and mineral samples; the characterization of products for use in desulfurization systems for coal-fired power plants; investigations into flue gas desulfurization scrubber materials; travertine deposition and diagenetic alteration; and the use of cathodoluminescent microscopy and plane light microscopy.

Shane earned his M.S. degree in Geology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. degree in Geoscience and a B.A. degree in Anthropology from Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

“I started out as an archaeology major,” said Shane. “Then I became more interested in the rock and soil I was digging in and the importance it had in relation to archaeology. Lab science is one of those things where life throws a curveball at you. I had the opportunity to learn about XRD and mineralogy, expanded on my skills, and made a career of it."

“I have only been at the EERC a few weeks, but the first thing I noticed was the atmosphere,” Shane continued. “People are friendly and helpful, and it is exciting to be at a place where science is important. I am excited to develop and advance EERC analytical techniques related to unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, shales, and other tight formations in relation to the study of clay mineralogy.”

Having grown up on a farm near Ulen and Hitterdal, Shane said, “I’ll always say I’m from Minnesota, but I was in the Fargo–Moorhead area for 8 years and lived in Champaign–Urbana, Illinois, for 11, so a lot of places are now home. I hope to make another one here in Grand Forks.”

Shane and his wife appreciate Americana and retro culture and enjoy playing softball together, trying out craft beers and new breweries, going to Disneyworld, and walking their 185-lb St. Bernard named Fezzik and their 12-lb dachshund named Gertrude.

“The little one is in charge,” he said.

Shane’s hobbies include playing softball, basketball, hockey (“very, very poorly”), and video games. A fan of music—especially punk rock music—Shane sings in a band called the Risky Casanovas. “We are getting college radio play in Champaign, Illinois, and just finished our first album,” he said. “Check it out! https://riskycasanovas.bandcamp.com/releases.”

EERC Reports Increased Hiring with a Significant Rise in Contract Awards in FY16

The EERC saw increased hiring during fiscal year 2016 (FY16), which ended June 30, 2016, with a significant rise in contract awards.

Over the 12-month period, the EERC hired a total of 11 new full-time employees, which is the result of continued steady improvement in the overall financial health of the organization.

“This fiscal year has brought the EERC the best year for new contract awards in 6 years, and we’ve made some major strides forward this year in expanding our capabilities and our capacity to respond to our client’s needs,” said EERC CEO Tom Erickson. “With the number of new contract awards in recent months, we’ve had an urgent need to bring additional staff on board to carry out the work and help meet client needs. The response has been so positive that we received more than 120 applications for just one recent position.”

In FY16, the EERC was awarded more than $36.5 million in new contracts, a 28.5% increase over the previous year and a 49% increase from FY14. Total contract expenditures exceeded $31 million, an increase of 7.5% from FY15. Over the course of the fiscal year, the EERC submitted 150 proposals worth $67.4 million to organizations worldwide.

“This is the second year in a row that we have seen significant financial progress,” Erickson continued. “Along with our success in awards, we launched a major internal reorganization focused on efficiency gains and aligning our core business activities, which has allowed us to meet the State Board of Higher Education's 3-year financial plan 1 year earlier than expected, regaining our self-sufficient funding model,” he said.

With last year’s success, combined with nearly $25 million in contracts already awarded or under negotiation, FY17 is expected to bring a continued need for aggressive hiring.

The EERC’s success is due, in part, to a new focused approach on developing programs and client relationships to solve the world’s most pressing energy and environmental needs, attracting significant federal, state, and industry support. For example, the EERC has focused on the incredible opportunity that exists in North Dakota to bring together the synergies of coal, oil and gas, renewable, and agricultural industries, resulting in significant opportunity for the state. In FY16, the EERC received over $8 million in state awards to address current issues and enhance future energy opportunities for North Dakota. These projects demonstrate the EERC's commitment to serve the state of North Dakota and the businesses active in the state.

Erickson concluded, “The EERC now has a total client base of 1340 clients in 52 countries, which is a direct reflection of our commitment to strengthening relationships with current partners and our ability to foster new business opportunities. I would like to acknowledge the tremendous effort by our staff this year for their work on our existing core programs, building exciting new initiatives, and strengthening our presence in the state’s energy sector.”

Dr. Michael Jones Presented with the Prestigious Energy Champion Award

Dr. Michael L. Jones, Vice President of Research and Development (R&D) for the North Dakota Lignite Energy Council, has been awarded the 2016 EERC Energy Champion Award.

The award was presented in May 2016 during the Energizing North Dakota’s Future: Realizing the Vision luncheon held at the EERC.

“Dr. Jones’s career, contributions, and leadership in the energy industry span more than 35 years and have had a significant impact on the nation, North Dakota, the lignite industry, and the EERC,” EERC CEO Tom Erickson said. “We are proud to honor Dr. Jones for his extraordinary commitment to the energy industry, his tremendous leadership, and his invaluable partnership.”

Dr. Jones began his career in the energy industry in 1979 when he joined the EERC’s predecessor organization, the U.S. Department of Energy Grand Forks Energy Technology Center, where he directed R&D projects related to combustion technology for low-rank coals. Following its defederalization in 1983, he continued with the University of North Dakota (UND) Energy Research Center, Energy & Mineral Research Center and, ultimately, the EERC, where he later became the Associate Director of Industrial Relations and Technology Commercialization.

In 2009, Dr. Jones was appointed by the North Dakota Industrial Commission as Research, Development, and Marketing Director for the Lignite Energy Council and technical representative to the Commission. In 2014, he was appointed to the National Coal Council, which is the Federal Advisory Committee to the U.S. Secretary of Energy on topics related to federal policies, plans, and priorities affecting the production, marketing, and use of coal.

Dr. Jones is a graduate of Bemidji (MN) State University, and he earned a master's degree and a doctorate in physics from UND. He has authored or coauthored over 80 publications.

The EERC Energy Champion Award was created to honor individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, vision, and personal commitment to energy and environmental research, development, and demonstration programs across the nation. Past Energy Champion Award recipients include U.S. Senator Mark Andrews in 1986, Conrad Aas in 1987, John MacFarlane in 1990, U.S. Senator Kent Conrad in 1992, Thomas Clifford in 1993, Everett Sondreal in 1995, Thomas Bechtel in 1996, and U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan in 2004.

Erickson concluded, “Dr. Jones’s steadfast dedication to the EERC was integral to our success and transition from a federal facility to one of the nation’s premier energy research facilities. His part in developing early industry–government consortia provided a road map for decades of success at the EERC, an approach that became a foundation for programs that help to tackle many of today’s most vexing energy issues.”

New Employee: Dr. César Barajas-Olalde

The EERC is pleased to announce that Dr. César Barajas-Olalde has joined the EERC team as a Senior Geophysicist. In this position, César analyzes the subsurface using geophysical methods and performs advanced processing and interpretation of geophysical data collected in the field, providing clients with new ways to view the geology between wells or where there are no wells. César specializes in the use of geophysical methods for exploration and monitoring of petroleum reservoirs and CO2 storage, geophysical data acquisition and processing, modeling, algorithm development, and the handling of large seismic data sets.

César brings a wealth of experience to his position at the EERC, having worked for Schlumberger most of his career in several R&D positions in Houston, Texas; Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; London, United Kingdom; and elsewhere. César also has worked in production environments as Geosolutions Data Processing Manager based in Buenos Aires, where he was accountable for Schlumberger Geosolutions’ strategic direction across Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela. Most recently, as Project Manager for Schlumberger Geosolutions Center in Denver, Colorado, César spearheaded a mega seismic data-processing project in which leading-edge technology was applied to petabytes of data.

César holds a Ph.D. degree in Geophysics from the University of Kiel, Germany; an M.S. degree in Applied Geophysics from Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education, Mexico; and a B.S. degree in Geophysical Engineering from the Technological Institute of Ciudad Madero, Mexico.

César understands well the challenges of handling, analyzing, and processing “big data,” and his experience working in R&D and production environments with stakeholders worldwide has involved the development of technology from inception to final application within the commercial market. This expertise and his experience working with reservoirs worldwide are great assets to the EERC.

“My exposure to geophysical challenges of reservoirs such as Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, Burgan in Kuwait, and Vaca Muerta in Argentina will allow me to rapidly identify the technology required to address the challenges of the reservoirs in the Williston Basin,” said César.

César and his family love music, traveling, and participating in sports. Originally from northeastern Mexico, César’s interests outside work involve learning as much as possible about the places and cultures where he lives. He spin-cycles, plays tennis, ran his first half marathon last year and plans to run a full marathon, and played golf for the first time at the EERC Golf Tournament this summer. While in Saudi Arabia, César created a soccer training program for kids and coached a children’s team there. He wants to do that again.

Sports have always been important in César’s life. As a teenager, he played on volleyball and soccer teams in regional events almost every year. “I participated in several national competitions and was selected to be part of the amateur national soccer team. This was a fantastic time in my sports ‘career,’’’ César said, “as I had the opportunity to be trained by excellent coaches and to play with excellent players, some of whom later became part of the professional national team.” However, training meant spending months away from school at the Olympic center in Mexico City. “I had to decide between an intensive sports career or continuing with school,” he said. “This is why I say that ‘geophysics won the final game.’”

New Report Provides Snapshot of Current Water Management Practices in the Bakken

Water is a valuable commodity in the Bakken petroleum system (Bakken) region of western North Dakota for drilling, completion, production, and maintenance-related activities. Water use and management in western North Dakota have changed dramatically over the past decade as a result of the unprecedented growth and development of the Bakken and consequent adaptations by the state and industry to meet the rapidly growing need for increased water supply and disposal options.

To that end, the EERC has been closely tracking the challenges associated with Bakken water management and evaluating the technical and economic feasibility of various technological advancements and water-handling practices.

As part of the EERC’s Bakken Production Optimization Program (BPOP), the EERC has released a report providing a synopsis of past and current water management practices in the Bakken.

"In the past decade, there have been dramatic changes in water management practices in the western part of the state as a result of oil and gas development in the Bakken petroleum system," said Beth Kurz, Principal Hydrogeologist and Laboratory Analysis Group Lead. "This report summarizes the history of water use and handling in the Bakken over the past decade and how industry and service companies have rapidly adapted to address some of the challenges associated with water supply, transport, and disposal."

Kurz continued, "While freshwater use for oil and gas development accounts for less than 5% of the total for municipal, rural, industrial, and agricultural use within North Dakota, it is important to optimize the use, transport, and disposal of water in the Bakken to minimize issues that could affect or delay surface operations for the oil industry," she said.

The report also provides an estimation of future water supply demand and disposal needs, an overview of potential treatment technologies, considerations for recycling and reuse, a summary of the implications of the report findings for our partners, and recommendations for future work.

"Several data sets including freshwater withdrawal locations and volumes, produced water generation, and saltwater disposal locations and volumes were provided to the EERC from the North Dakota Industrial Commission and the North Dakota State Water Commission, which proved to be invaluable in the assessment of past and future water management practices," Kurz said. "The EERC would like to offer its sincere appreciation and gratitude for their contributions."

According to the report, current data and water use projections suggest that, absent a prolonged drought, there appears to be sufficient freshwater supply for continued operations in the Bakken; however, the large volumes of produced water generated now and in the future may warrant a proactive approach by industry to increase produced water recycling and reuse.

The primary demand for freshwater in the Bakken is for hydraulic fracturing and well maintenance. Current estimated freshwater demand is approximately 267 million barrels a year and may increase threefold by 2035.

"The unprecedented oil and natural gas production in North Dakota has also resulted in a substantial increase in the volume of produced water being generated," Kurz said. "The primary mechanism of disposal in North Dakota is saltwater injection, most of which occurs in the Dakota sandstone; therefore, it is important that we understand the long-term capacity of the Dakota to serve as a saltwater injection horizon."

While improvements in fracturing fluid formulations enable the use of high-salinity water as a source of makeup water, it is estimated that less than 5% of the wells drilled in 2014 utilized produced water for fracturing fluid makeup. This is, in part, due to a lack of incentives to recycle and reuse produced water and the care that must be taken when large volumes of brine are stored. Before widespread brine recycling and reuse can occur, industry and regulators will need to define the regulatory process and acceptable containment practices required for large-scale saltwater storage in the Bakken.

Click here to download the full EERC BPOP report.

UND President Mark Kennedy Visits EERC

UND President Mark Kennedy toured the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) on July 25, 2016, with CEO Tom Erickson and met others from the EERC. Kennedy began his duties on July 1, as the 12th President of the University, succeeding Interim President Ed Schafer and President Robert Kelley, who retired on January 14, 2016. Kennedy has pledged a commitment to support the mission and vision of the EERC and has expressed a vested interest in furthering the Center’s core programs.

Kennedy came to UND from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., where since 2012 he was Director of the Graduate School of Political Management and Professor. A native of Benson, Minnesota, Kennedy earned a B.S. degree at St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, and an MBA at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He then served as an executive with several firms, including Pillsbury, and today’s Macy’s.

Kennedy will address the EERC staff at a future staff meeting.

To view photos of President Kennedy’s tour of the EERC, click here
.

New EERC Employee: Dr. Jose Torres

The EERC is pleased to welcome Dr. José Torres to the Reservoir Engineering Group. As a Senior Reservoir Engineer – Unconventional Reservoirs, José works to resolve the advanced challenges of unconventional reservoirs related to production mechanisms and CO2enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in tight reservoir rocks, CO2 storage, high-volume brine disposal, and advanced reservoir-monitoring techniques.

José’s areas of expertise include reservoir simulation, production mechanisms and EOR for unconventional reservoirs, fluid flow in porous media, and thermodynamics of reservoir fluids.  He is particularly interested in the technology development of oil recovery and carbon sequestration processes.

José earned his Ph.D. degree in Chemical and Process Engineering from Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, and his Reservoir Engineering Specialist and Chemical Engineer degrees from Universidad Simόn Bolίvar in Caracas, Venezuela.

José comes to the EERC from ConocoPhillips in Houston, Texas, where he served as a Senior Reservoir Engineer/Technology Engineer for conducting and supervising original research projects to improve the understanding of production from unconventional reservoirs, interpreting physical phenomena involved in fluid flow in porous media, and conceptualizing mathematical models and designing algorithms for reservoir performance evaluation. Previously, José held the position of Research Engineer at the applied research unit “Open and Experimental Centre for Heavy Oil,” a partnership between Adera and the University of Pau, France, sponsored by TOTAL. There, he developed simulation workflows and numerical studies to improve the understanding of novel recovery processes.

As a native of Caracas, José grew up with the oil and gas industry all around him, including an important petroleum technology center, so he and his friends were all on STEM career paths early. High school piqued his interest in research and development. His curiosity was captivated by chemical processes in college, and work afterward exposed him to “some fascinating reservoir engineering problems” found at the very beginning of the Orinoco Belt development.

“At that moment, I discovered that my background as a chemical engineer may help to find new ways to think about technical challenges in reservoir engineering,” José said.

About his new work with EERC projects in the unconventional oil fields of the Bakken Formation, José said, “Once again in my career, I have found very interesting work assignments related to fascinating reservoir engineering challenges found in the beginning of field development. Many factors are still not well understood, such as the influence of small pores in the thermodynamics of reservoir fluids, the flow effects due to the presence of fractures, and the interaction of coupled mechanisms occurring simultaneously. All of these factors make unconventional reservoirs very interesting to someone curious to understand how nature works. Having the ability to think out-of-the-box has been instrumental to finding effective technologies,” José said.

“In particular, the Bakken is a vast natural resource that opens new doors to generate a positive impact on society,” José continued. “As an engineer, my final goal is to invent efficient and environmentally friendly processes to enable sustainable progress. Working with unconventional reservoirs allows me to work on topics that I am passionate about, knowing that I can help give back some benefit to society.”

Happily married with a 12-year-old boy and a 10-month-old girl, José says most of his time outside of work is spent with his family, going to local parks or nature areas and watching European soccer and movies that can help with the kids' education. 

New EERC Employee: Amanda Livers

The EERC would like to welcome Amanda Livers to the Geophysics team. As a Research Scientist in Geophysics, she analyzes the subsurface using geophysical methods and performs advanced processing and interpretation of geophysical data collected in the field. She assists clients in oil and gas development and geologic COstorage by providing new ways to view the geology between wells or where there are no wells.

Amanda’s principal areas of interest and expertise include detection and monitoring of near-surface environmental and engineering hazards by developing novel geophysical processing methods and designing specialized data acquisition surveys. She has deployed and been an operator for several large-scale seismic data acquisition surveys, including a semipermanent autonomous seismic array deployed to monitor the migration of injected CO2 through the subsurface.

Amanda holds an M.S. degree in Geology from the University of Kansas and a B.A. in Physics from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota.

“My interest in geology was fostered by hiking with my mom in the North Dakota badlands and being exposed to all the mesmerizing outcrops,” explained Amanda, who is originally from Sidney, Montana. “Geophysics is an avenue that allows me to apply my love of physics and math to understanding subsurface geology and addressing environmental and engineering hazards.”

Amanda says that her work at the EERC gives her the opportunity to work on novel geophysics research projects and to implement new geophysical data collection and processing methods. She says she appreciates having access to a large variety of industry software packages through the EERC and the numerous projects that involve cutting-edge geophysics research.

Also, since her work in the field often takes her out to western North Dakota and eastern Montana, Amanda says she likes that working for the EERC allows her to work and live close to family. Amanda is engaged to a law enforcement officer. When she’s not working, her hobbies include playing and coaching hockey. She also enjoys hunting and fishing.

EERC Wins Prestigious 2015 API Achievement Award

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) was awarded the American Petroleum Institute (API) Achievement Award by the Williston Basin Chapter of API for accomplishments and positive contributions to the oil and gas industry throughout the Williston Basin.

The EERC received the award during the API Williston Basin Chapter’s annual awards banquet in Williston, North Dakota, in mid-November. In attendance were Senator John Hoeven, Congressman Kevin Cramer, Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley, State Board of Higher Education Chair Kathleen Neset, and many other dignitaries.

The Williston API Achievement Awards highlight the achievements of companies and individuals whose tireless work, innovative solutions, varied business activities, and community involvement produce the energy and economic activity that fuel our communities and country.

The EERC won in the Industry Innovation category, which recognizes significant achievement for advancements in technology, systems, processes, and their application in the oil and gas industry in the Williston Basin. Innovative technologies and processes have led not only to the development of oil and gas resources in the Williston Basin but have also provided solutions to associated challenges such as reducing gas flaring, controlling dust, reducing truck traffic, increasing recovery percentage, and more.

API’s granting of this award provides a venue for showcasing these innovations and the dedicated companies and professionals who contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of our industry and communities.

“We are very honored to have received this prestigious award and sincerely thank the Williston API Chapter for acknowledging the impact our oil and gas programs have on the Williston Basin,” said EERC Vice President for Research Ed Steadman. “We would not have received this award without our industry partners and the hard work, daily diligence, and personal commitment of our amazing team—it is our honor and privilege to work alongside each of them every day,” he said.

Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, JohnHarju, was also nominated for Outstanding Achievement – Individual Award. For more information, visit http://willistonapi.com/Awards.

EERC Begins Testing New Technology to Improve Safety of Nation’s Pipelines

Photo courtesy phmsa.dot.gov.
The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota (UND), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has begun working on a project to help improve the safety of the nation’s energy transportation pipelines.

DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) awarded a total of $2 million to 11 different institutions through its Competitive Academic Agreement Program (CAAP), which more than doubles the amount that was awarded last year.

“The CAAP Program pays for critical research into safety technologies and mechanisms that could improve safety throughout the entire pipeline sector,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a recent press release. “These investments have contributed to new pipeline technologies that are being used across the country to improve pipeline safety.”

The EERC’s specific project involves evaluating the potential for using specially engineered metal foil to facilitate locating plastic pipelines once buried underground. According to PHMSA, over 69% of the nation’s 2.149 million miles of natural gas distribution pipelines are plastic, and unlike metal piping, plastic pipes have no intrinsic electrical or magnetic properties that can be used to accurately locate them once buried. As a result, accidental excavation damage is the leading cause of reportable incidents for natural gas pipelines.

“These foils have unique material properties that we will use to our advantage to add a detectable signature to plastic pipes while using the least quantity and cost of added material,” said Chris Martin, Senior Research Engineer, Advanced Thermal Systems. “If successful, the resulting signature will be as strong as with conventional pipe, which would make the technology compatible with commercially available locating equipment.”

Martin says the EERC will also examine the commercial potential for this pipeline locating system, looking at added cost, pipe integration, and potential value-added features such as a unique identification pattern.

The $125,000 project is being conducted in partnership with Metglas, Inc., Conway, South Carolina, the world leader in amorphous metal foil production.

In addition to stimulating innovative research, CAAP promotes the involvement of student researchers to illustrate how their engineering or technical disciplines are highly needed in the field of pipeline safety. As part of its project, the EERC will also recruit and hire a UND student to be integrally involved with the experimental data collection and the larger concept evaluation.

“The pipeline infrastructure in the United States is key to our standard of living. It’s very important that pipes are safely maintained and appropriately expanded to sustain increasing demand,” said EERC CEO Tom Erickson. “Research such as this plays a key role in making national, regional, and local pipelines safer and more environmentally friendly.”

The EERC recently completed a comprehensive study of the oil and produced water gathering pipeline network in North Dakota. The intent of the study is to improve the performance of produced water and crude oil pipelines in North Dakota, with the purpose of supporting the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s decisions regarding possible adoption of administrative rules impacting pipeline safety and integrity.

View the complete study here.

Newer, Faster Seismic Monitoring Technology to Verify CO2 Distribution

The EERC is testing a new seismic method for detecting and tracking the carbon dioxide (CO2) injected into oil reservoirs to increase oil production through enhanced oil recovery. By monitoring for physical changes occurring at specific points within a reservoir related to the passing of a CO2 plume, the proof-of-concept technology may provide engineers with useful information about where CO2is moving in a more timely manner than traditional methods.

A seismic source (left picture) at a fixed location periodically sends sonic waves into the subsurface. Reflected energy from the reservoir and other geologic layers returns to an array of separate surface receivers and is recorded for analysis. During injection, as the CO2plume moves through the formation past monitored reflection points, the recorded waveforms from the reservoir reflection should exhibit detectable changes, providing a means of determining when the CO2 plume has moved past the monitored reflection points.

A total of 96 seismic recorders with three-component geophones are being deployed for this test. Each unit is battery-powered and can operate autonomously for up to 60 days with a minimal environmental footprint. The complete array of receivers offers great flexibility in deploying, removing, and servicing the units.

Conventional seismic monitoring methods can provide excellent interpretive results to locate pressure fronts and gas plumes. However, they have some challenges, including high operation costs, large impacts to the survey area because of the great number of receiver locations and source locations required, and long time lapses between surveys.

To address these issues, the EERC method employs a sparse array of strategically placed receivers in conjunction with a single seismic source location. Over the course of a year, the source will be remotely operated at weekly intervals, and a series of time-lapse records from monitored reflection points will be collected and processed monthly. Simple processing allows for a fast turnaround of results. The ability to recognize and act on changes observed to be occurring in the reservoir in near real time is anticipated to offer a significant improvement compared to traditional time-lapse seismic methods. The potential exists for both data collection and processing to eventually be automated for even greater efficiencies.

Energizing North Dakota’s Future: Realizing the Vision

Chris J. Zygarlicke, Associate Vice President for Strategic Projects and University Relations, reports on the regional energy summit held at the EERC in May of this year.

On May 12, 2016, the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) hosted a regional partnership summit at its facilities in Grand Forks, North Dakota, called Energizing North Dakota’s Future. The event’s goal was to stimulate conversation among some of North Dakota’s most influential energy leaders on steps toward charting a positive course for the future of the energy industry in North Dakota.

The summit brought together experts from all industrial energy sectors and North Dakota legislators and state officials to discuss an action plan for the upcoming year.

Experts highlighted key challenges and opportunities facing the energy industry. EERC CEO Tom Erickson kicked off and emceed the meeting, emphasizing that North Dakota’s energy picture is one of cooperation, collaboration, and teaming of all industry, government, and public sectors as one of the nation’s largest energy states. Coal, oil and gas, and renewable energy resources must all factor into a balanced energy strategy that ensures security regionally and internationally. A brief welcome was also given by then-Interim President of the University of North Dakota, Ed Schafer.

Speaking on key challenges facing the North Dakota energy industry were Jason Bohrer, President, Lignite Energy Council; Ron Ness, President, North Dakota Petroleum Council; and Scott Stone, Counsel, Hunton & Williams LLP. Leading discussions on solutions for North Dakota’s energy future were Scott Wehner, Chief Science Officer, Denbury Resources, Inc.; Robert “Mac” McLennan, President and CEO, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc.; and Kathy Neset, President, Neset Consulting Service.

The event concluded with the keynote by Charles “Chuck” McConnell, Executive Director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, who began by exclaiming that the current Administration’s energy policy is three letters: EPA. Nonetheless, he acknowledged the undeniability of climate change and CO2 as “a” reason for that, considering that since the Industrial Revolution, it is estimated that humankind has released more CO2 into the atmosphere than the rest of human history altogether.

"The key for the U.S. energy industry, including North Dakota, is to figure out how we can make a difference in reducing CO2 emissions yet keep pace with other world economies while still providing low-cost, reliable energy," McConnell stated.

Energy development in the United States should be globally relevant, so that low-cost fossil energy technologies may allow for similar adoption in poorer countries. For example, the concept of government-subsidized, or even “free” electricity to power an electric vehicle in Sweden is simply not globally relevant.

So the question remains, McConnell said, what changes in energy policy can we make that cause low-cost clean energy economies to flourish and that make sense in a global society? Currently, changes are being made in U.S. energy choices and development because of government mandates rather than for the sake of human health and economical energy development. Therefore, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in North Dakota and elsewhere should be taken seriously and not become a game between coal companies, CO2 suppliers, and oil companies. We need to strategize how to balance the risk of EOR with monetary investment and technology development to make this happen fairly and efficiently. Global investors in Norway and Japan, for example, will be interested in being a part of such a strategic model.

The event also served as an opportunity for the EERC to show appreciation to some of its regional partners and to present its Energy Champion Award to Dr. Michael Jones, the Vice President of Research and Development for the North Dakota Lignite Energy Council. Dr. Jones was honored with the award because of his nearly four decades of demonstrated leadership and commitment to energy and environmental research nationwide.


New Web Site – Household Energy and Carbon Footprint

In the wake of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), the world continues to focus on global climate change. Nations continue to contemplate ways to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and that means that carbon from energy will have to be part of the discussion. But what does that mean to everyday life?

To help answer that, the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has developed the Household Energy and Carbon Footprint Web site aimed at helping households become familiar with the energy integrated into their daily lives, including 1) where energy comes from, 2) how they use it, and 3) how it affects their household “carbon footprint.”

Visitors can navigate through the energy pathway from source through processing, delivery and, finally, to private homes. Visitors are then invited to calculate their own carbon footprint and consider actions. Video clips and tool tips help convey the story. The Web site is funded in part by the North Dakota Department of Commerce Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.

It was developed for North Dakota households, but the site’s calculators and basic information apply to households across the United States.

“It’s important for people to know where their energy comes from and what that means with respect to carbon emissions,” said Dan Daly, EERC Senior Geologist and the Web site project manager.  

The Web site is built around the fact that energy currently comes to our homes in three forms for three primary purposes:

Each form of energy creates a different carbon trail as it travels to and through the home. The carbon trail and the amount of energy used in a home determine the household’s carbon footprint. 

“There are more than 300,000 households in North Dakota and over 100 million in the United States. In most cases, those homes are attached to electrical and home fuel services, and there’s a fueling station nearby for their vehicles. In today’s world, that means most households produce a carbon footprint,” said Daly.

“Still,” he added, “when my folks would ask me to turn off the light or shut the front door, they were concerned about the cost to their pocketbook. Now we know that the environment is part of that too. Households can be careful in their energy use and wise in their choices. This Web site is designed to help.”

EERC Hosts Partnership Summit to Energize the Future of Energy in ND

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), a worldwide leader in the development of solutions to energy and environmental challenges, today is hosting a partnership summit “Energizing North Dakota’s Future: Realizing the Vision,” designed to focus on the steps toward charting a positive course for the future of the energy industry in North Dakota.

“I believe that the energy industry in the state is at a crossroads,” said EERC CEO Tom Erickson. “We are at once faced with some of the biggest challenges and greatest opportunities in North Dakota history. This is an opportunity to stand with our partners in the industry to face the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities together, in order to collaboratively develop the technologies and strategies to ensure a bright future for our state.”

The summit brings together experts from all energy sectors, along with legislators and state officials to discuss an action plan for the upcoming year. The agenda includes keynote speaker Charles “Chuck” McConnell, Executive Director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy.
               
Two panels highlighting key challenges and opportunities facing the energy industry feature the following presenters: Jason Bohrer, President, Lignite Energy Council; Ron Ness, President, North Dakota Petroleum Council; Scott Stone, Counsel, Hunton & Williams LLP; Scott Wehner, Chief Science Officer, Denbury Resources, Inc.; Robert “Mac” McLennan, President and CEO, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc.; and Kathy Neset, President, Neset Consulting Service.

Erickson concluded, “The reality of North Dakota’s energy picture is that it will take the cooperation and teaming of all industry, government, and public sectors to sustain our strength and expand our growth. Coal, oil and gas, and renewables must all play a role in a secure and balanced energy strategy.”

The event concludes with partnership networking events in the afternoon and evening.

EERC Energy Stars Spin for Kids

EERC staff members—spinners and nonspinners alike—recently participated in Altru’s Spin for Kids fundraising event. The EERC Energy Stars was one of 32 teams that participated in this year’s event, and the EERC was able to raise over $5300 for this worthy cause.

The Spin for Kids program provides funding for critical programs, services, and equipment for kids with special needs in our community and region. As an added bonus, the Engelstad Family Foundation paired up with the cause this year and matched funds up to $75,000, bringing the total raised to a record-breaking $175,000!

The EERC Social Cause Committee presented Jessica Strand from Altru
with a $5300 check at an EERC staff meeting.
“It was great to see everyone working together to spin and volunteer the day of the event as well as all of the fundraising efforts that took place leading up to it,” said Kari Suedel.


The EERC Energy Stars spin team included Kari Suedel, Angie Morgan, Josh Stanislowski, Carolyn Nyberg, Corey Irion, Debby Johnson, Michelle Olderbak, and Katherine Dunham. Other EERC employees who volunteered the day of the event included Chantsa Dalkhaa, Melanie Jensen, Rhonda Olson, Jane Russell, and Sue White.

New EERC Employee: Dr. Steve Benson


The EERC is pleased to announce that Dr. Steve Benson has accepted the position of Associate Vice President for Research, working with the EERC’s Vice President for Research and a team of scientists and engineers to develop and conduct innovative projects aimed at solving energy and environmental challenges. Steve brings over 30 years of research and development experience related to the development of efficient and clean energy production systems to the EERC to assist clients in all areas of the energy industry.

Steve also serves as a Professor in the Institute for Energy Studies at the University of North Dakota (UND), where he works with students, faculty, and research staff to train the next generation of energy experts and conduct small-scale energy and environmental research projects for government and industry.

Prior to his current position, Steve was Chair of the Petroleum Engineering Department, Professor in the Institute for Energy Studies, and Professor of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering & Mines at UND. Previously, he worked at the EERC as a Senior Research Manager and Associate Director for Research. Steve also served as the Director of the EERC’s Center for Air Toxic Metals® (CATM®).

Steve’s principal areas of interest and expertise include the development and management of complex multidisciplinary programs that are focused on solving energy and environmental challenges associated with the development and utilization of fuel resources, including technologies to improve the performance of fuel resource recovery, refining, conversion and environmental control systems; the impact of fuel properties on combustion and gasification systems; carbon dioxide separation and capture technologies; advanced analytical techniques; computer-based models to predict the performance of combustion and gasification systems; the technical and economic feasibility of fuel conversion technologies; and state and national environmental policy.

“One of the things that interests me the most about this position is the opportunity to work at a world-class facility with world-class people on developing solutions to energy production and environmental challenges,” Steve said of his new position.

“The people here make it a unique place to work, not only because they are fun and great to work with, but they have the abilities to develop the next generation of integrated clean power systems equipped with carbon dioxide capture, sequestration, utilization, and storage,” Steve added.  

When Steve is not working, you can usually find him running, building wood–fiberglass boats, or restoring furniture that he and his wife have found at yard and antique sales. Family time for the Bensons often involves traveling to see their three children and four grandchildren who live in Houston, Seattle, and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

New EERC Employee: Dr. Chantsa Dalkhaa

The EERC is pleased to welcome Dr. Chantsalmaa Dalkhaa to its Reservoir Engineering team. Chantsa is working with Reservoir Modeling and Simulation at the EERC, where she uses oil and gas industry simulation software to develop numerical models of the subsurface to run dynamic simulations and determine the long-term fate of produced/injected fluids, including hydrocarbons, CO2, and brine.

Chantsa holds Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. degrees in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. Chantsa also did postdoctoral research in two departments at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada: the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and the Geoscience Department.

Chantsa's principal areas of interest and expertise include numerical modeling and fluid analysis in oil and gas, carbon sequestration, solvent and thermal enhanced oil recovery, cold heavy oil production with sand, and related energy and environmental areas.

“People are super nice here at the EERC, and I am thrilled to be part of this wonderful and multidisplinary group of people working on exciting and challenging research,” said Chantsa. “I have always found the subsurface a mystery, and to be able to visualize it and its contents by means of technology to understand it better is fascinating.”

Chantsa grew up in a small town in Mongolia and returns occasionally to visit family. She enjoys her free time outside of work by being active. She bikes, so she is looking forward to biking to work later in this spring. She also likes to hike and found many opportunities with scenic vistas in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, where she did her postdoctoral research. Another favorite hobby is dancing, especially Latin and ballroom dancing.

New EERC Employee: Ian Feole


The EERC welcomes Ian Feole, Geological Engineer, to its Geomodeling Team, where he assesses project uncertainties in oil and gas development and geologic CO2 storage for clients by developing geophysical models of the subsurface, performing regional geophysical characterization, and conducting petrophysical analyses of geophysical data.

Ian’s principal areas of interest and expertise include rock mechanics, business logistics, CO2 enhanced oil recovery, basin modeling, and remediation. He holds a B.S. degree in Geological Engineering and a B.B.A. degree in Operations and Supply Chain Management from the University of North Dakota (UND). Ian first began working at the EERC as a student, where his primary focus was investigation of potential residual oil zones within the Williston and Powder River Basins. Previously, he worked as a North Dakota Geological Survey Core Library technician and as a Geophysical E-Logger for Braun Intertec.

“One of the most enjoyable parts of my job here at the EERC has been the people I work with—they are friendly and pleasant to be around,” Ian says. “The work has also been quite rewarding, as it provides me an opportunity to expand my knowledge in my field and allows for a dynamic work environment. Modeling was a part of my education that I liked, and as I began working here at the EERC, I was able to learn modeling techniques within different programs and continue improving and broadening my skills.”

Ian became interested in the area of geology and, more specifically, geological engineering as a career after talking to students and professors at UND about the degree. He admired their enthusiasm and enjoyment of the work that they were doing. The amount of work conducted in the field also interested him, as he enjoys working outdoors. 

When he’s not working, Ian enjoys skiing, snorkeling, traveling, and attending hockey and baseball games. He also brews his own beer. A native of Shelbyville, Kentucky, Ian has been married since 2012.

New EERC Employee: Benjamin Oster

The EERC is pleased to announce Benjamin Oster has joined the Geomodeling Team as a Geologist. Ben’s primary responsibilities include assessing project uncertainties in oil and gas development and geologic CO2 storage by developing geophysical models of the subsurface, performing regional geophysical characterizations, conducting petrophysical analyses of geophysical data, and evaluating geologic core samples. Ben previously worked at the EERC as a student and was involved in client projects dealing with CO2 enhanced oil recovery and saltwater disposal in North Dakota.

Ben’s principal areas of interest and expertise include well log and core analysis, geologic characterization, geocellular modeling, and CO2 enhanced oil recovery.

Ben is currently working on his M.S. degree in Geology at the University of North Dakota (UND), where his thesis research involves using well log and core data to characterize the Winnipegosis Formation of the Williston Basin. He holds a B.S. degree in Geology from UND and A.S. and A.A. degrees from Williston State College.

Having grown up on a farm southwest of Williston, North Dakota, Ben was interested in geology from a young age. That interest increased later, when his home was surrounded by the Bakken oil boom.

“What interests me most about my job here at the EERC is being able to work with multidisciplinary teams on a variety of challenging projects,” Ben says.

When he’s not working, Ben enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, and playing the banjo.

New EERC Employee: Dr. Jun He

The EERC welcomes Dr. Jun He to its team of oil and gas engineers and scientists. In his position as a Petrophysicist, Jun assists EERC clients by developing geophysical models of the subsurface, performing regional geophysical characterizations, performing petrophysical analyses of geophysical data, and working with a diverse team of scientists and engineers to assess project uncertainties in oil and gas development and geologic CO2 storage.

Jun holds a Ph.D. degree in Petroleum Engineering and an M.S. degree in Petroleum Geology from the University of North Dakota (UND). He earned a B.S. degree in Petroleum Geology Exploration from the Southwest Petroleum Institute, China.

Jun's principal areas of interest and expertise include geology; petroleum systems; programming; data management; the application of rock mechanics to petroleum reservoir development; the application of geophysics and well-logging principles in the development of petroleum reservoirs; and the application of geophysical methods for monitoring, verification, and accounting for CO2 storage and enhanced oil recovery operations.

“There are many reasons I really like what I do at the EERC,” Jun said, “but first is that people are so nice here, and I work with a great team of multidisciplinary researchers. We do cutting-edge work together, and I believe we will accomplish exciting and groundbreaking research in the near future. Second, the EERC’s research tools and access to big data are outstanding.”

Jun comes from Wuhang, Hubai, in the center of China. He is married and has a son attending UND. A sports fan, Jun participates in some physical activity nearly every day. He has helped his soccer team become UND intramural champion numerous times. Although his favorite sport has always been soccer, Jun is now discovering that he enjoys playing tennis even more.