News Ticker


EERC’s Chimote named Student Employment Supervisor of the Year in three categories

Saurabh Chimote, Senior Software Development Engineer at the University of North Dakota (UND) Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), has the unique distinction of being named the Student Employment Supervisor of the Year in three categories – UND, the state, and the region. The awards were presented during a reception at the EERC on May 15.

The awards are given by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators. For the UND award, his name will go on a plaque in the student employment office. The North Dakota statewide award includes a cash prize of $50, and the regional award includes a cash prize of $100. There are 14 states in the regional association, and the regional award is the highest level at which the award can be given. 

Chimote has been supervising students since 2013 when he initiated their hiring to help with software development. This real-world experience is a complement to their academic studies. Chimote provides an atmosphere in which students thrive and succeed.

“Saurabh’s supervision style is that of a guide or coach,” says his supervisor, Andrew Palmiscno, who nominated Saurabh for the award. “He tailors his instruction to meet the level of each student and fully involves them in client interaction, which contributes to students’ development of soft skills. Saurabh also mentors them on their career goals, providing advice on what classes to take to reach those goals.”

Chimote’s approach prepares students for their future professional expectations by moving them from an academic setting to a business environment where they focus on client needs. He uses his extensive technical knowledge to support the students in their work.

One student says, “Saurabh has shown me what kind of manager I want to be in my career. He is inclusive, treats students with respect, teaches us how to do things better, and always encourages us to ask questions.”

Left to right: EERC Staff Harry Duchscherer, Andrew Palmiscno, Saurabh Chimote, Sara Lahr, and UND Students/EERC Employees Aaron Johnson and Christian Hansen.  
Chimote holds both an MBA and an MS degree in Information Systems from the University of Cincinnati, a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Information Technology from Nagpur University, India, and a diploma in Computer Technology from the Board of Technical Education, Mumbai, India.

EERC Staff Hold Donation Drive for Northlands Rescue Mission

University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center staff recently held a donation drive to benefit Northlands Rescue Mission. The Mission’s new director, Sue Shirek, accepted the donation on May 12 during a visit to the EERC. 

Northlands Rescue Mission director Sue Shirek (second from left) accepts donations from EERC employees. Pictured left to right: EERC CEO Tom Erickson, Shirek, and EERC staff members Sheryl Landis, John Kay, Rhonda Olson, Wes Peck, Janelle Ensrud, Amanda Livers, and Sue White.
“People often ask me if their small contributions can make much of a difference,” says Shirek. “The answer is – absolutely. It may not seem like it when you’re donating a few cans of food, but you can see those individual donations add up to a lot to benefit the community.”

The effort was spearheaded by the EERC’s Social Cause committee, which is a group of employees that volunteer within the community. The committee selects a charity each year and raises money, donates goods, or volunteers their time at that organization. This year’s work at the Northlands Rescue Mission includes assembling meals for the Backpack Program, sorting food and clothing donations, or working in the Mission’s store, where residents can get personal care and other items. 

 “It is amazing to work at a place with people that have this much generosity,” says Amanda Livers, EERC Research Scientist in Geophysics and Social Cause committee chairperson. 

The supply drive for the Mission was supported by a fun competition among teams of EERC staff. Over the course of the eight day competition, over $10,000 worth of necessities were collected.
Last year, the committee raised over $5,400 for the Altru Health Foundation through their Spin for Kids fundraiser, which was the second-largest amount raised by a team in 2016.

Introducing Dr. Brian Kalk

The EERC is happy to welcome Dr. Brian Kalk as Director of Energy Systems Development. Brian and his team focus on developing new solutions and advancing existing technologies for our clients. Brian holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resource Management and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from North Dakota State University (NDSU). He also holds a B.S. in Social and Political Science from Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina. 

Brian began his career in the Marine Corps, where he served overseas in Desert Storm, Bosnia, and Iraq and participated in the evacuation of the American Embassies in Liberia and the Central African Republic. Stateside tours included positions such as Environmental Compliance Officer at Camp Pendelton in California and Logistics Officer for numerous units. He retired in 2006 at the rank of Major, at which time he joined NDSU, teaching courses in Natural Resources, Logistics, and Political Science. From 2009 to 2017, Brian served as a member and Chair of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, where he held portfolios in Electric Generation and Transmission, Pipeline Safety, and Telecommunications. 

Brian's principal areas of interest and expertise include pipeline safety, species management, electric generation, and transmission planning. He is a member of the National Coal Council. Brian has also served as President of the Midwest Area Regulatory Commissioners, Chair of the Clean Coal and Carbon Management Committee of the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners, and member of the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Clean Coal Technology delegation to China. He has provided input, review, and oversight on state and federal energy policies.  

Not surprisingly, Brian has seen many changes in the energy industry over the last several decades and has insight on the changes and challenges facing the United States in the future. 

"The world's population will continue to grow, straining our energy resources and presenting new environmental challenges. Energy demands will continue to increase in all regions of the world, making it ever more important that we use all sources of energy wisely and assist other nations to promote regional stability. I have always believed that energy security = national security. The United States must use all sources of energy and acknowledge that there are pros and cons to each," Brian said. 

"The knowledge, experience, and drive of the EERC position us well to be the 'go-to' research body when it comes to the complex problems we face. The reputation of the EERC is second to none," he added. "I look forward to working with the 'best of the best' and being on the cutting edge of the development of new technologies and applications of the next generation of solutions to energy system problems. I'm excited to be part of the team." 

Brian and his wife have been married 26 years this summer. She is a special education teacher and hopes to work in the Grand Forks area soon. Their daughter is a reporter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When he is not working, Brian enjoys golfing, hunting, fishing, and watching UND hockey and Bison football.    

Introducing Nikki Massmann

The EERC welcomes Nikki Massmann as the Director of Communications, where she works in partnership with clients on media relations and communication strategy for collaborative projects. Nikki also works with the EERC leadership team developing and implementing communication initiatives.

Nikki's principal areas of interest and expertise include strategic communication planning, media and public relations, information dissemination, social media, and marketing. She sees this job as a perfect fit for her.

"This position is the perfect blend of my past career experience and interest areas. Every day is different - one day I'm working with engineers on strategy for a public outreach campaign for their research project; the next day I might be giving a tour of our facility to elementary school children. The research we do here is fascinating and reaches all over the globe. I love being able to help people connect that research to their everyday lives," Nikki explained.

Prior to her position at the EERC, Nikki served as Communication Coordinator at the Center for Rural Health, located at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She also has experience working in quality assurance, technical writing, and project management in the healthcare field. Nikki holds a B.S. degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from the University of Minnesota, Crookston, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Higher Education from the University of North Dakota.

Regarding the communication field, Nikki says, "Technology has completely changed the way we send and receive information. Online sources, text message alerts, smartphone apps, and email newsletters are now part of the normal communication landscape. Social media, in particular, is a valuable way to engage audiences. It has become an essential piece of communication in this era; it's a great addition to existing communication channels, such as print materials, face-to-face interaction, tailored key messages, and public relations."

A native of Crookston, Minnesota, Nikki credits her parents' influence for her current career.

"I grew up listening to my dad, a broadcaster on local radio, and loved going to work with him on 'Take Your Daughter to Work Day.' I ended up working at the radio station part-time during high school and college and liked the excitement of interacting with the public. I have always used writing as a creative outlet and discovered a natural ability for building relationships and connecting with people through my writing and everyday interactions," Nikki said. "Add in my interest in science and healthcare inherited from my mom, who is a nurse, and I ended up with an eclectic combination of interests that drew me to the scientific and technical communication field."

Nikki's husband is the logistics manager at the North Dakota Mill & Elevator. They have two daughters, ages 14 and 8, and one son, age 10, all very active in music, theater, dance, and soccer. When she is not attending her children's activities or doing her own schoolwork for her master's, Nikki is an avid reader and enjoys spending time socializing with friends, attending concerts, and watching television.

Investigating Feasibility of CO2 Capture and Underground Storage

Investigating Feasibility of CO2 Capture and Underground Storage
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced an $8.8 million award to the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) to investigate the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions underground.

“We’re one of just three such feasibility projects awarded in the United States,” said Wes Peck, Principal Geologist and Geosciences Group Lead at the EERC.

The EERC will also receive a $1.2 million award to conduct a prefeasibility study focused on the capture and storage of CO2 emissions in Nebraska.

The $10 million contracts are part of the $44 million awarded by DOE through the Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) initiative. The goal is to help mitigate CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

“This is a great opportunity for UND and the EERC,” said Peck. “The projects will benefit the state and the region.”

Coal production is one of North Dakota’s largest industries, and about 30 million tons of lignite is mined each year. With one of the largest reserves of lignite in the world, North Dakota has enough coal to produce energy for 835 years, according to the Bismarck State College Energy Center for Excellence.

Burning coal to fuel power plants and other industrial activities emits CO2, and the nation has been seeking ways to mitigate CO2 emissions.

Underground Storage

One idea is to capture the carbon and store it underground. Is it feasible? That’s what DOE wants to find out.

EERC researchers will investigate the feasibility of capturing emissions from coal-fired plants, compressing the CO2, and injecting it a mile deep underground. One of the most promising sites is the Broom Creek Formation in Oliver and Mercer Counties in central North Dakota.

If viable, the site could eventually store 2 million metric tons of CO2 per year for 25 years—a total of 50 million metric tons that would not be emitted into the atmosphere.

“There is no oil there,” said Peck, “and it’s not used for any other resources.” The water in the rock formation, he added, is saltier than that in the ocean and well below any potential drinking water.

A major aspect of this project is to acquire new geologic information about the Broom Creek Formation. This will include drilling two exploratory wells into the formation to gather rock samples.

“Drilling the holes will be relatively easy compared to most drilling in western North Dakota, said Peck. “Bakken drillers go 10,000 feet down and 10,000 feet horizontally,” he said. “We’re only going 5800 feet down. They’ll use a smaller rig.”

The project will not actually inject any CO2 into the formation; it will just examine the feasibility of the project and the site. If the results are promising, more research will be done.

The prefeasibility study being conducted in Nebraska will investigate the deep geologic storage opportunities for CO2 emissions from the coal-fired Nebraska Public Power District’s Gerald Gentleman Station, about 300 miles west of Omaha.

Working Together

The EERC has a long history of working well with DOE, said Peck. The EERC's work on clean coal-burning technology and geologic storage of CO2 has resulted in great working relationships with federal agencies, industry, and others.

“We have a compelling story. We have a great team at the Center, with experience working on other DOE projects,” he said. “We have a great working relationship with energy industries in the state.

– Jan Orvik, UND Today

DoD Announces $1.8M Award to Reduce Water Consumption in Its Facilities

DoD Announces $1.8M Award to Reduce Water Consumption
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced a $1.8 million contract with the EERC to reduce the water consumption of DoD facilities that use evaporative cooling towers to provide cooling for air conditioners, power stations, data centers, and other industrial facilities. The project, entitled “Hygroscopic Cooling Tower for Reduced Water Consumption,” will span a 3-year time period, covering several project milestones.

“This was a very competitive Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) opportunity under the U.S. DoD,” said Tom Erickson, EERC CEO. “Congratulations to our team for not only the innovative technology concept but the high-quality proposal.”

Cooling towers are intensive consumers of water, yet they are also potential energy-saving devices and can be important system components to meet combined energy- and water-saving goals.

As part of the project, two demonstration units of a novel cooling tower technology designed to restrict water evaporation will be tested at sites that are characterized by “hot, dry” and “hot, humid” summer weather.

The technology will attempt to strike a better balance between wet and dry cooling so that the benefits of wet evaporative cooling can be applied during hot summer afternoons, but the evaporated water loss can be restricted during cooler times when conditions allow for efficient sensible heat transfer to the air.

“The concept behind this project is to seamlessly vary the amount of sensible versus latent heat transfer in response to changing ambient weather conditions,” said Chris Martin, Senior Research Engineer, Advanced Thermal Systems. “In this mode of operation, the maximum amount of water can be saved for any combination of cooling temperature set point and ambient air temperature. This technology is expected to greatly expand the potential for water savings in traditionally wet-cooled applications.”

Annual performance data will be collected and will include water savings, cooling efficacy, and operational costs. The results will help DoD energy managers estimate the technology’s cost-saving potential, understand its operations and maintenance requirements, and identify potential integration strategies.

For more information on the EERC's water programs, click here.