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Drilling into a new economy?

By Jan Orvik, UND Today

Jason Laumb and the EERC are working with industry partners on a $6-million project to determine the cost of installing a carbon-capture system at a coal-powered utility plant, the Milton R. Young Station power plant near Center, N.D., northwest of Bismarck. The idea is to use such a facility to capture carbon dioxide and use it to enhance oil recovery by injecting it deep into the ground, where it would be forever stored. Image courtesy of Kari Suedel of the EERC.
Jason Laumb thinks he may be on to something “big.”
What’s got him thinking so big? Laumb, principal engineer and coal utilization group leader at UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), says it’s all about reducing carbon emissions while enhancing oil recovery and benefiting the environment at the same time.
“This could mean a new economy, new business, a larger tax base and hundreds of jobs,” said Laumb, a principal investigator on a new project to capture carbon dioxide. “This could be a big deal for the state of North Dakota.”
To help facilitate this result, Laumb and the EERC are determining the cost to install a carbon-capture system at a coal-powered utility plant, the Milton R. Young Station power plant near Center, N.D., northwest of Bismarck. The power plant provides electricity to power cooperatives throughout eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.
“Burning fossil fuels produces primarily CO2 and water,” Laumb said of the power plant. “We’re looking at grabbing the CO2 out of the flue gas, and using it for enhanced oil recovery.” Injecting the gas into oil reservoirs, he said, lowers the viscosity of the oil so it flows easier through the pores of tight rock, boosting oil well output. The carbon dioxide used in the process is then permanently trapped deep in the reservoir.
Larger project
This is just the beginning, Laumb said. The goal is to complete the initial project and see if it’s cost-effective, and then continue with final design and construction plans. There’s already a small test pilot project at EERC headquarters on the UND campus.
The $6-million project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. It’s a collaborative effort, with an additional $1 million from the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Lignite Research Program and $250,000 each from ALLETE Clean Energy (ACE), a power supplier in Duluth, Minn., and Minnkota Power Cooperative. Other partners include technology vendor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and an engineering firm, Burns & McDonnell.
The EERC’s partners provide financial backing, engineering evaluations, site access, operations data and risk assessment and evaluation, Laumb said. He added that strong support also has come from state and federal elected officials, key regulators, labor unions, coal mines and other electric utilities.
Primary outcomes
In addition to determining design and cost estimates for a new carbon-capture facility, the EERC also hopes to gather more information on economic benefits of carbon-capture equipment and related technologies. The results will support the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal of reducing carbon-capture costs to $30 per metric ton by 2030. It also could lay the groundwork for the largest integrated postcombustion CO2 capture facility in the world.
Laumb thinks the project’s technology could transfer to other power plants in the nation.
“If it looks feasible to build a postcombustion-capture facility and move forward with a capture station,” he said, “That means new jobs.”
A new carbon-capture industry would benefit all of North Dakota, Laumb said, as well as have a positive effect on the environment.
So why is this such a big idea?
“The oil boom revitalized some communities and stopped population loss; this could do the same thing,” Laumb said. “The two biggest industries in North Dakota are agriculture and energy – lignite, oil and gas. Carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery could help grow this critical North Dakota economic pillar.”
This article originally ran in UND Today on April 12, 2018 and was written by Jan Orvik.


EERC Welcomes Mike Davies

Mike Davies has joined the EERC team as a Budget Analyst. He supports researchers and project managers in the areas of cost management, personnel planning, and cost projections, and he develops detailed cost proposals, manages and oversees multiple project budgets, and updates principal investigators on a regular basis regarding their projects’ financial status.

Mike holds a bachelor's degree in Accounting from the University of North Dakota. He comes from a family with deep roots in accounting and finance as well as law practice, so accounting was a natural choice for him to study.

“The people here are fantastic. There aren’t enough hours in a day to express how welcoming and warm everyone has been thus far,” Mike said of the EERC. Mike proved he’s a good sport when he allowed himself to be drafted as a goalie during the 2nd Annual EERC Hockey Tournament recently.

A native of Plymouth, Minnesota, Mike comes from a large family (he and his twin sister have 28 first cousins). A “big hockey guy,” he loves sports and outdoor activities, and he’s not afraid of a challenge. During his first experience with downhill skiing, he found himself skiing down a black diamond slope by mistake and took roughly an hour to reach the bottom. Outdoor sports and running numbers in his head aside, Mike also likes “just being a couch potato and watching a good movie with my fiancĂ© and our two spoiled cats.”

EERC Vice President named to National Coal Council

John Harju
University of North Dakota (UND) Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC)’s John Harju has been invited by U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to serve as a member of the National Coal Council (NCC). Harju is the Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at the EERC. NCC is one of three federal advisory committees that provide recommendations for U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy programs and policies.

NCC’s principal activity is to provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Energy on matters relating to coal and the coal industry. It is a nonprofit advisory group chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) enacted in 1972. Expert members are appointed by the Secretary of Energy and serve in a voluntary capacity. There are around 90 committee members. Brian Kalk, Director of Energy Systems Development at the EERC, is also a member, having been appointed in his prior capacity as one of North Dakota’s Public Service Commissioners.   

“It is an honor to be invited by the Secretary, as well as the balance of the NCC membership, to serve,” says Harju.

Harju is also a member of the National Petroleum Council, which was chartered under FACA as well. His appointment to NCC runs through 2019.

EERC’s Laumb and Peck honored for contributions to the lignite industry

Jason Laumb
The Lignite Energy Council recently honored 26 individuals for their dedication and contributions to the lignite industry during the Council’s 45th Annual Meeting on April 4, 2018, in Bismarck, ND. Among those award recipients are two University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) employees. Jason Laumb and Wes Peck were both presented with the Distinguished Service Award in Research and Development for their efforts to capture and store carbon dioxide from new and existing lignite-based power plants.


Wes Peck
Laumb is a principal engineer and the team leader for the coal utilization group, and Peck is a principal geologist and team leader for the geosciences group. 

The EERC is a global leader in developing solutions to energy and environmental challenges, known for its ability to bring cutting edge science and energy technologies to commercialization. 

EERC Welcomes Jason Novak



The EERC welcomes Jason Novak to the position of Technology Development Operator. Jason works on project teams to set up, construct, operate, and maintain bench- and pilot-scale equipment for EERC clients. He also fabricates new equipment and/or modifies standard equipment when projects call for it. His work assists project managers and principal investigators in obtaining needed project data and results for our customers.

Jason previously worked in the beverage industry for Coca-Cola in Grand Forks and for a drilling company in the Bakken for 6 years. He has taken coursework toward a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at the University of North Dakota.

“Being able to work in the energy field researching and improving how we utilize modern practices is what interested me in the Technology Development Operator job at the EERC,” Jason said. He said he especially likes the people and environment at the EERC and said that everyone is eager to help him get acclimated.

Jason is engaged, and a few of his hobbies are hunting, fishing, golfing, and snow skiing.