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EERC Foundation Board Meets

The Energy & Environmental Research Center Foundation® held its annual board meeting at the EERC on October 12. Board members met to discuss a number of potential, new, and ongoing technology transfer and commercialization activities. After the meeting concluded, the board met informally with EERC researchers and staff who lead the world in developing solutions to energy and environmental challenges and make the EERC an outstanding place to work.

EERC Foundation Board Members, October 2015
Front (left to right): Alice Brekke, Ron Ness, Bob Harris (President), Tom Erickson, and DeAnna Carlson Zink. Back (left to right): Mark Johnsrud, Chris Greenberg (Vice President), David Straley, and Jeff Hume. Not pictured: John Snustad (Secretary/Treasurer) and Robert Kelley.

The EERC Foundation was formed in 1992 as a separate, nonprofit corporation existing solely to support the commercialization activities of the EERC, while maintaining an operating agreement with the University of North Dakota. The rights to intellectual property developed by the EERC are transferred to the EERC Foundation, which then often licenses the rights to developed technologies and fosters relationships with strategic industrial partners willing to invest in commercializing those technologies.

“The EERC Foundation helps to provide a vehicle for transition of the technology from the EERC to the marketplace,” said Tom Erickson, CEO of the EERC.

EERC Selected for Two Major Awards to Advance Technologies in Carbon Capture and Storage

The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has been selected for two awards by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to create new CO2storage technologies at commercial scale.

The first, a $3.2 million award, in partnership with Regina, Saskatchewan-based Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC), involves the development of “intelligent monitoring system” (IMS) modules for integrating monitoring and simulation data at CO2storage sites, allowing site operators to more efficiently manage operations in near real-time. Other key partners in the project include Computer Modelling Group, Schlumberger, and the CETER Group.

The project will be conducted utilizing data acquired through PTRC’s Aquistore Project, a storage component of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage Integrated Demonstration Project, one of only a few active CO2 storage projects in the world.

The EERC will work to develop the IMS through real-time data-capable workflows, algorithms, and a user interface to automatically combine multiple forms of data into a more cost-effective measurement, monitoring, and verification system, optimizing the CO2 storage process.

“The Aquistore site, coupled with PTRC’s partnership, provides an ideal proving ground for the development of IMS technologies, which can greatly enhance operations for the emerging carbon capture and storage industry,” said John Hamling, Project Manager and Principal Engineer for Oilfield Operations at the EERC.

The EERC was also selected by DOE NETL to receive funding for developing and validating pressure management and plume control strategies through a brine extraction storage test (BEST). The EERC is one of only five organizations selected. The funding is through a DOE “Fit for Purpose” project, referring to research focused on developing specific subsurface engineering approaches that address research needs critical for advancing carbon capture and storage to commercial scale.

In this project, the EERC will develop a site design and implementation plan for an active reservoir management field test which focuses on brine extraction as a means of managing pressure to increase potential CO2storage efficiency and capacity within a reservoir. The plan will also include a test bed for brine treatment technologies that are capable of treating the extracted brine for beneficial use.

Surface facilities will be designed for a site in the North Dakota portion of the Williston Basin and will be flexible and modular, in order to accommodate most pilot-ready water treatment technologies. Along with site selection activities, viable water treatment technologies will be screened for their potential future deployment. The project is being conducted in partnership with GE Global Research, Computer Modelling Group, and Schlumberger Carbon Services.

“Our project will contribute to the creation of test beds for technologies to treat brine that is extracted from the storage formation. It is a first step in understanding how to utilize the subsurface safely while potentially providing a valuable water resource,” Hamling said.

“We are very pleased that DOE selected the EERC and our corporate partners for these opportunities,” said EERC CEO Tom Erickson. “North Dakota has a very diverse and growing energy industry. This funding is a tremendous step forward for North Dakota as a national leader in clean coal technology and carbon capture, utilization, and storage development in the United States.”

Both projects are funded through the DOE Carbon Storage Program, which advances the development and validation of technologies that enable safe, cost-effective, and permanent geologic storage of CO2.

Newfound Purpose for ND Clays: As Proppants Used in Hydraulic Fracturing

Small ceramic beads called proppants are often used during hydraulic fracturing operations to “prop open” the fractures in a tight hydrocarbon-bearing formation in order to allow natural gas and oil to flow out of the formation. 

Most common ceramic proppants are made from high-alumina-content minerals such as bauxite or high-purity kaolin clay that has been sintered to a high density. However, high-quality deposits of these minerals can be very far from oil and gas production fields, leading to high shipping costs to get the proppants to the well site.

The Energy & Environmental Research Center, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, has investigated the use of lower-alumina-content clays that are commonly available near the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota for making ceramic proppants. 

To further investigate whether or not these clays can, in fact, be used to make low-density proppant particles with the same strength as other ceramic proppants, Senior Research Advisor Dr. John Hurley responded to a joint funding opportunity from General Electric (GE) Oil and Gas and Statoil, which have launched a new collaboration to accelerate the development of environmentally and economically sustainable energy solutions.

The joint, technology-focused program is aimed at driving an industrial response to some of the biggest challenges facing global oil and gas development. This first “Open Innovation Challenge” is specifically aimed at improving the efficiency of proppants used in unconventional operations in order to reduce the impact of trucking on communities. Reducing trucking during this stage of shale development can largely be addressed by improving the efficiency of current proppants or through the development of new proppants.

Hurley’s proposal was one of five selected from around the world to tackle this challenge.

“I am very excited that this project was awarded because it will help us determine whether or not ceramic proppants can be made from clays that are not traditionally used, such as exist in North Dakota,” Hurley said. “If so, transportation costs and, therefore, costs of the proppants in general would be substantially reduced.”

Hurley continued, “What inspired me to propose the work is that up to 5 million pounds of proppants are used in the completion of a single horizontally drilled well in North Dakota. The transportation costs to transport ceramic proppants to North Dakota are very high. These costs could be saved if the proppants are made locally with lower-alumina-content clays. In addition, the ceramic proppants that I will be trying to make are lighter in weight than sand, which is also used as a proppant, so there would be less damage to road beds when they are transported by truck,” he said.

The judges’ panel, consisting of technical experts and management from both GE and Statoil, evaluated more than 100 applications from over 30 countries across a number of industries. Each winner will be awarded an initial cash prize of $25,000 and will be eligible to receive additional funding from an available discretionary prize pool of $375,000 for potential development or commercialization efforts.

For more information on the Challenge and the winners, visit

Chair of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education Visits EERC

Kathleen Neset, Chair of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, toured the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) complex, gaining first-hand knowledge of the current programs under way at the EERC, specifically focusing on oil and gas, enhanced oil recovery in the Bakken, and carbon capture and storage. She toured the facility with UND President Robert Kelley, his wife Marcia, EERC Director Tom Erickson, and Associate Director for Strategic Partnerships John Harju.

Neset has a background in the oil and gas industry, serving as President of Neset Consulting Service, Inc., which has provided wellsite geologic/geosteering services to the oil industry since 1980. She was a keynote speaker at a recent Bakken conference and expo in Grand Forks.

Neset with Dr. Hesham El-Rewini, Ph.D., P.E., Dean of the
CEM, during the reception at the EERC.
Directly following the tour of the EERC, a reception was held in her honor, hosted by President Kelley, in collaboration with the EERC and the UND College of Engineering and Mines (CEM). It was a chance for her to meet key members of the faculty and staff from both organizations, as well as members of the President’s Cabinet.

EERC Is Growing and Changing

The EERC’s total research awards increased for fiscal year 2015, showing a steady improvement in the Center’s financial position. In the 12-month period ending June 30, 2015, the EERC had $28.4 million in new awards, a 15.9% increase over the previous year.

“I am very pleased to see that the EERC is on a financial upswing,” said EERC CEO Tom Erickson.

“In partnership with the UND Provost’s office, we have made some extremely positive strides directed at improving our situation, and I believe that with those changes implemented, things will continue to improve moving forward.”

The EERC has implemented a new management model to increase business and program development activities at the EERC. Changes were made to the organizational structure, and new positions focused on certain levels of need, including strategic partnerships and collaboration, were added.

“This new structure allows us to allocate more resources toward developing and supporting technical research programs,” Erickson said.

Personnel changes at the management level include John Harju now serving as Vice President for Strategic Partnerships. In addition, Ed Steadman was promoted to Vice President for Research; Charles Gorecki was promoted to Director of Subsurface R&D; and Chris Zygarlicke was named Associate Vice President for Strategic Projects and University Relations.

“Our focus is and will always be on serving the best interests of our strategic partners and clients,” said Harju. “In my new role, I will be focused on strengthening relationships with current partners as well as fostering new business opportunities."

Harju believes the EERC is now in a position to precisely target certain strategic research areas, allocate additional resources to existing core programs, invest in new initiatives, and strengthen the EERC’s presence in the energy and natural resources sectors.

EERC Energy Stars Shine at Wild Hog Marathon

In a first-of-its-kind event, a group of EERC employees teamed up to compete in the annual Wild Hog 1/2 Marathon. The teams, coined the “EERC Energy Stars,” included two 2-person relay teams, with each runner evenly splitting the 13.1 miles that make up a half marathon. The third team, made up of 10 members, ran and walked various distances ranging from 1 to 4 miles.

“I couldn’t run a half marathon on my own, so the relay was a great way to take part in the race,” said Kari Suedel. “It was so much fun to be part of the Energy Stars team, and I got to know people I don’t normally work with. I am actually looking forward to next year—and for a nonrunner, that’s pretty good!”

Other folks from the EERC who chose not to run still managed to get in on the fun. A cheering section was set up along the race route, complete with noise makers and signs.

“It was nice knowing that there was support from fellow EERC staff along the race route,” said participant Kari Gagner. “It was like they were part of the team!”

EERC Energy Stars runners included (left to right) Travis Suedel, Kyle Gjerding, Malhar Khambete, Justin Kovacevich, Kari Gagner, Carolyn Nyberg, Kari Suedel, Kelly Hodgson, Rhonda Olson, Jess Erickson, and Jen Knudson. Not pictured: Janelle Ensrud, Josh Mason, and Chris Zygarlicke.

2015 Picnic Honors Employees' Commitment to Research

There was something for everyone at this year's EERC picnic! The picnic is an annual celebration of summer even as it historically has honored EERC employees for their dedication to energy research excellence. UND President Robert Kelley and his wife, Marcia, joined EERC employees and their families and friends for an evening of good company; a wonderful picnic “spread” by Quality Catering of Ada, Minnesota; bouncy houses for the kids; and everyone’s favorite—the ice cream truck!

We are very grateful to the EERC Maintenance crew for working under pressure to move the picnic from its usual location at University Park to a sheltered corner of the EERC complex because of very high windstypical for any season in North Dakota.

New EERC Employee: Mike Corcoran

The EERC welcomes Mike Corcoran as its Business Development Manager for Defense and Remote Sensing Programs, where he provides senior-level program expertise to foster the growth of industry- and government-driven research for Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiatives such as advanced fuel research and water‒energy nexus efforts. Mike also functions as a subject matter expert and Chief Pilot for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used in support of aerial survey operations for environmental assessments, wildlife surveys, and oilfield/wind turbine monitoring, often in collaboration with colleges and departments across the University of North Dakota (UND) campus. In this capacity, he serves as Chief Pilot and Operations Manager for the UND Biology Department (Arctic research program), working in collaboration with the Hudson Bay project and scientists at the American Museum of Natural History, Parks Canada (Wapusk National Park), and the UND College of Arts and Sciences.

Since 1990, Mike has served as a U.S. Army Officer, dual-branched as an Aviation and Intelligence Officer. Mike is currently assigned as a Senior Army Planner (Army Reserve) to the Joint Intelligence Operations Center, Pacific Command, Hawaii. Mike is a senior Army aviator and has flown both fixed and rotary wing aircraft systems in assignments that have deployed him to the Republic of Kosovo, Southwest Asia, and Central and South America.

Prior to his position at the EERC, Mike served as Assistant Director for UND’s UAS Center of Excellence, where he led programs and fostered growth for UAS projects within UND’s Aerospace Sciences. Prior to that, Mike served as Director of Air Operations and as UAS Government Flight Representative for the UAS Operations Center – North Dakota, DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where he established the first operational UAS site along the northern border of the United States.

“The EERC offers me the opportunity to work with a large number of professional researchers who are driven to achieve success while working in direct support of our industry counterparts, which is a critical component for producing relevant solutions to real-world challenges, Bridging the gap between research, government, and industry is what I enjoy most,” Mike says.

Mike holds an M.A. degree in Business and Organizational Security from Webster University and a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from ESI International. He earned a B.A. degree in Criminal Justice Studies and is a Distinguished Military Graduate from St. Cloud State University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Service Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and the U.S. Army Intelligence Center Officer Advanced Course. Mike is a Commandant’s List Graduate from the U.S. Army Aviation Center Officer Basic Course and the U.S. Army Combined General Staff College.

“Although I understand research and scientific processes extremely well, my historical successes in running programs have come from using business-centered processes: requirements = tasks = deliverables. Bringing such processes into research areas under DoD and DHS is what I intend to foster within the walls of the EERC,” Mike adds.

Originally from a small town near the Twin Cities, Mike entered federal service with the Army after college. After moving all over the world serving his country, Mike and his family have called Grand Forks home since 2007. “And we never want to move again!” he says.

Mike enjoys spending time working outdoors and relaxing with his wife and three children at their cabin east of Bemidji. “Doing anything outside generally brings me peace (meeting rooms and suits are not allowed),” he says. “My family is my real job…one I enjoy more each day.”

New EERC Employee: Lonny Jacobson

The EERC is pleased to welcome Lonny Jacobson to the EERC in the position of Research Specialist in Oilfield Management. Lonny’s B.A. in Economics from the University of North Dakota and over 8 years of prior experience as an oilfield operations manager/consultant make him a valuable member of the EERC team. Lonny leads field activities for the EERC related to drilling, logging, coring, and completion. He also analyzes hydraulic fracturing practices and conducts oil and gas pipeline evaluations and inspections in conjunction with EERC oilfield projects. Lonny’s main areas of interest and expertise include optimizing wellsite layout for well servicing/completions, hydraulic fracturing techniques, logistics, and site management.

“Oilfield management entails wearing many different hats,” says Lonny. “You might be dealing with CEOs of oil companies about current/future projects one day and the next day working with the individual in charge of trash and porta potties. It can be challenging to balance all of these acts to make sure the task at hand is completed safely and as efficiently as possible."  

Lonny’s interest in and knowledge of the oil industry started early, as he grew up on a farm northwest of Williston and worked with the family oilfield business since he was in high school.

“My job here at the EERC, so far, has been very exciting. The current projects and potential future projects are extremely interesting and challenging,” Lonny says. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of research that helps companies make decisions about future/current projects and how to approach them.” 

When he’s away from work, Lonny enjoys camping, golfing, traveling, woodworking, and spending time with his wife and 9-year-old daughter.

New EERC Employee: Lawrence Pekot

Lawrence Pekot is a Principal Engineer and the Reservoir Engineering Group Lead at the EERC, helping our clients optimize and enhance their reservoir activities. Larry leads reservoir engineering evaluations for CO2enhanced oil recovery, CO2 storage, and unconventional hydrocarbon recovery projects and leads a group of reservoir engineers on multiphase flow, geomechanical, thermal, and geochemical interaction simulations.

“Reservoir engineering is all about understanding and managing the movement of fluids in the deep subsurface—mostly water, but it also includes oil, natural gas, or CO2—usually done through the drilling and operation of deep wells. Reservoir engineers use geologic data and sophisticated modeling software to make determinations about where to drill wells, how many wells are needed, and how long their useful lives may be,” explains Larry.

“We hope to develop more effective solutions for oil and gas production and safe, long-term storage of CO2 emissions, especially in cases with difficult or unconventional resource problems,” he adds. “If we can crack some of those tough problems, or even just reduce the unknowns or the uncertainties, it becomes easier for industry to follow with development.”

Larry holds B.S. degrees in Civil Engineering and Geological Science from Pennsylvania State University. He initially majored in civil engineering but took a required course in geology and was hooked. “For me, oil and gas reservoir engineering seemed to be the perfect place to practice both skills, and it has turned out to be a great career.”

“I have been welcomed with open arms at all levels of the EERC organization. Everyone is professional, capable, and friendly. That removes a lot of uncertainty when starting a new job in a new location and gives you immediate confidence when getting started with your own work,” Larry says.

Originally from a small Pennsylvania coal town, he still visits his mother in the same house where he grew up. Larry’s wife is from Bergen, Norway, and “Anywhere in Norway feels like home for her,” he says. The two moved to Grand Forks from Denver, where Larry managed international CO2 storage project evaluations for Schlumberger Carbon Services. They have lived in many places over the years, spending as many years living in Europe as in the United States.

“We have moved across the Atlantic Ocean six times. It has been exciting but also challenging and at times exhausting. We look forward to settling down for a while in Grand Forks,” says Larry.

Larry has too many interests to ever be bored. “Visiting our four children and our families, who are really spread out, is always on the agenda. Our more routine free time goes to hiking, skiing, books, and golf,” he says. “Then there is the vacation house. We own a small property on the west coast of Norway. We love the place, but it always requires some ‘labor of love’ to keep it in good condition, at least when we are not fishing. And make no mistake about it, Linda is the better fisherman!”

New EERC Employee: Dr. Olarinre Salako

The EERC is pleased to welcome Dr. Olarinre Salako, Reservoir Geophysicist, to its Geophysics team that answers client questions regarding subsurface activities. He develops geophysical models of the subsurface, performs regional geophysical characterizations for clients, performs petrophysical analyses of geophysical data, and works with a diverse team of scientists and engineers to assess project uncertainties in oil and gas development and geologic CO2 storage.

“My love for challenges and finding solutions to complex problems landed me in the field of geophysics. My interest in oil and gas energy research is all about solving problems. Geophysics is at the core of the oil and gas industry upstream activities and, by extension, the energy industry,” says Ola. “Reservoir geophysicists help the energy industry find commercial oil and gas accumulations in the subsurface, monitor oil and gas production and the recovery process, determine the best areas for new production, and determine sites for and monitoring of CO2 storage, among other applications. Geophysicists work in conjunction with geologists and reservoir engineers in achieving these goals.”

Ola holds a Ph.D. degree in Reservoir Geophysics from the Institute of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom (UK); an M.S. degree in Geoscience for Subsurface Exploration Appraisal and Development, jointly awarded by the Heriot Watt University and the Universities of Edinburgh and Newcastle, UK; and a B.Tech. in Applied Geophysics with Second Class Upper Division from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria. Prior to his appointment at the EERC, Ola was a Lead Geophysics Lecturer at Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria.

Ola’s principal areas of interest are focused on hydrocarbon reservoir monitoring involving integration of geology, geophysics, and reservoir engineering. His expertise includes prestack and poststack seismic inversion and interpretation, AVO (amplitude versus offset) and rock physics analysis, and seismic and CSEM (controlled source electromagnetic) forward modeling.

“I like the fact that I was able to take responsibility from the first day. I enjoy the support given by other EERC staffers in getting me settled in as quickly as possible,” Ola says of his job here. “I like the working environment and teamwork displayed here. Although I haven’t been here long, I can say this is a good place to work.”

Ola is from Nigeria and lived in Scotland for 5 years while working on his master’s and doctorate degrees. He and his wife have a son (age 7) and twin daughters (age 5). Outside of work, Ola likes to play table tennis, and his reading interests include books about successful leaders in business and politics. He also engages in humanitarian works and volunteer services and serves as a bible teacher in Sunday school at his local church.

Myth Buster - The Truth Behind Bakken Flares and Satellite Images

Ever wonder about those satellite images in the media that show bright lights in the middle of sparsely populated areas of western North Dakota? Magazine articles published recently regarding oil production and associated gas flaring in the Bakken oil play show the night sky looking more like New York City, Boston, or Chicago than rural western North Dakota.

Realistic satellite images of associated natural gas flaring in the Bakken oil play region of North Dakota.
Inaccurately derived flare images that are usually highly processed, manipulated, and often amplified 100x.

Many published images tout new types of satellite imaging used to examine gas flares but seldom explain how the images are derived. These images are misleading in that they give the uninformed public the idea that flares are literally lighting up many square miles of prairie countryside, creating visible light similar to large metro areas.

So does the sky in western North Dakota really light up like a million-person metropolis? A casual drive on any evening through counties of the Bakken oil play shows otherwise. So how are these satellite images being formulated?

Researchers from the University of North Dakota (UND) Energy & Environmental Research Center and the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Science’s Department of Earth System Science and Policy joined forces to get a better understanding of these bright satellite images.

Following a year-and-a-half of study, a report has been released revealing the science and the factsbehind these images. Download the project summary now.

For more information on the EERC's Bakken resources, click here.

EERC’s Materials Lab Provides Targeted Solutions for Oil and Gas Production

Understanding the detailed physical and chemical structure of a reservoir will lead to better reservoir modeling, more optimal recovery strategies and, overall, more economical recovery of greater amounts of hydrocarbons. The Natural Materials Analytical Research Laboratory (NMARL) at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is able to provide timely, critical data to enhance our clients’ projects. Our analytical facilities combined with an experienced team of researchers provide a full range of advanced materials characterization and data interpretation using a variety of specialized equipment.

“We provide targeted solutions in all energy areas, including characterization of rocks from conventional and unconventional reservoirs to better understand primary oil production, CO2-based enhanced oil recovery, and CO2storage. We also characterize materials used or generated during oil and gas production, such as metal pipes and production tubing, which often experience corrosion- and scale-related issues,” said Senior Research Manager Beth Kurz, who oversees several of the EERC’s analytical research laboratories serving the Oil and Gas Group. 

“As the oil and gas industry has learned how to more efficiently extract hydrocarbons from unconventional reservoirs (i.e., characterized by very low permeability and porosity), our focus has been to provide better understanding of the rock characteristics that influence oil and gas extraction. Since wide-scale production of oil and gas from unconventional reservoirs is a relatively new paradigm for industry, it is surprising how much is still unknown regarding the small-scale features within the reservoir rocks, such as micro- and nanoscale fractures and pore networks, and how they affect production,” said Kurz.

Development of one of the largest unconventional oil and gas plays in North America is occurring in North Dakota and Montana, with oil-in-place estimates in the Bakken petroleum system ranging from 300 to 900 billion barrels. Using current methods, recovery of that oil is estimated at between 4% and 6%. Development is expected to continue for decades to come.

New analytical techniques that provide even greater amounts of critical data are continuously being developed, especially in the areas of imaging and mineral mapping. By integrating polarizing light microscopy imaging and mineral identification with scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging and particle chemistry, along with x-ray diffraction (XRD) mineralogy and SEM mineral mapping, a fairly detailed inventory of grains or minerals can be compiled, along with their relationship to each other and the environment to which they are, were, or will be exposed. This information can be used in a number of different ways, whether in unraveling the depositional and burial history of rocks, reconstructing fluid pathways in the rocks, understanding corrosion mechanisms of tubing and casing, or predicting mineralogical effects that enhanced oil recovery techniques may have on the reservoir.

This SEM backscattered electron image is of a Bakken Middle Member sample with a corresponding mineral map. The dark lines are fractures, and a small amount of illite (a clay mineral) can be seen filling some of the fracture network in the mineral map. Fracture networks are the pathways for fluid migration in low-porosity rocks, and mineralization along those pathways can impede flow.

bakken middle member

The analytical tools housed in NMARL are particularly well suited for reservoir characterization. Years of experience with the capabilities and data interpretation of SEM, XRD, and x-ray fluorescence analyses support the EERC’s expertise in reservoir characterization.

To find out how NMARL can help enhance your projects and activities, click here. If you have questions on how NMARL capabilities can help you, call Senior Research Manager Beth Kurz at (701) 777-5050.

Tremendous Opportunity for EOR in 2015

bakken eor
The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is leading a high-profile project focused on demonstrating the potential for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to significantly increase oil production from the Bakken petroleum system under a broad range of economic conditions.

In the world of oil and gas, one thing is certain: prices will fluctuate. In the past year, oil prices in the United States have decreased more than 40%. This is great news for consumers, but what does it mean for the oil industry?

John Harju, Associate Director for Research at the EERC, believes the recent drop in the price of oil is causing people industry-wide to rethink business plans for 2015.

“When people rethink their budgets and consider Plan A, Plan B, or maybe even C or D, you know they are setting priorities right now,” said Harju.

Regardless of what oil prices will do, Harju sees 2015 and outward as a tremendous opportunity for EOR, and multiwell pads will ultimately facilitate that.

“We are looking at how we can use CO2 and other injected fluids to get more oil, ideally increasing our recovery by 50%–100%,” Harju said. “I think we are at about 4%–6% right now in the Bakken, so the question is, what can we do to get 8%–12% through EOR?”

Through the Bakken CO2 Storage and Enhanced Recovery Program, the EERC has teamed up with industry partners to explore the benefits of using CO2 for EOR. The program is currently in the second phase, which focuses on additional laboratory- and modeling-based investigations to support the design of an injection/production scheme and also focuses on providing technical support (additional laboratory work, modeling, and monitoring) to a pilot-scale field demonstration, with the ultimate goal of conducting pilot-scale injection test(s).

This partner-driven program provides stakeholders with new information and data regarding the ability to realize improvements in oil productivity through CO2 injection in tight oil-bearing formations.  

With rig counts down but well counts up, Harju says he would like to see even more efficiency in the oil production process. The big contributor could very well be EOR.

To discuss program membership, contact James Sorensen, EERC Senior Research Manager.

EERC = Success for UND Grads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Mentorship Sets Firm Foundation for Future Workforce

If you’re a current or past client of the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), you may not realize that student employees are working alongside our researchers to provide you with the critical information you need. Employing and training students are long-standing traditions at the EERC. The students receive a commensurate salary and/or academic credit for work performed at the EERC, but even more valuable than that, working at the EERC allows students to gain real-world experience that will support them in their academic studies and in future jobs.

“It’s a win-win situation for the University, the EERC, the students, and our clients,” said EERC Director Tom Erickson. “Students are supervised and mentored by research and administrative staff while supporting existing research or investigating new research areas, building experimental equipment, or perhaps writing white papers for clients.”

The EERC usually has at least 20 student employees working in research areas, Procurement, Facilities, the Library, and other areas. Several UND students who were hired at the EERC last semester talked about the value of their experiences. Most of them plan to continue working here as they pursue their degrees.

Ian Feole and Faye Ricker worked on the EERC Oil and Gas Group’s residual oil zone project, an effort to identify new oil prospects based on hydrocarbon migration. Feole is a senior from Shelbyville, Kentucky, pursuing a Geological Engineering degree. He is assisting in the development of a comprehensive 3-D model of the Williston Basin. Ricker, a master’s degree student in Geology from Starke, Florida, researched the current and paleo heat flow in the Willison and Powder River Basins as part of an effort to develop a regional model for identification of residual oil zones.

“The work I did at the EERC was highly relevant to my own graduate research, and the access to the facilities and expertise here was a great advantage,” Ricker said.

Caitlin Gangelhoff is a senior in Criminal Justice from Bemidji, Minnesota. She is serving as a Safety Intern in the Environment, Health, and Safety Office assisting with developing safety procedures, understanding and applying policy regarding hazardous materials, and performing safety inspections.

A junior from St. Paul, Minnesota, majoring in Chemistry, Biology, and Forensic Science, Brianna Gysbers is working in the EERC Process Chemistry and Development Laboratory on a variety of different pieces of analytical equipment.

“This experience will help me learn how to use the equipment I’m learning about in class and give me the work experience I need for a future in the Forensics field,” said Gysbers.

Whitney Page, a junior in Petroleum Engineering from Bottineau, North Dakota, worked on projects with the EERC’s Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership evaluating history-matched reservoir simulation results, well logs, and other reservoir surveillance data for an oil field undergoing enhanced oil recovery.

“As a Research Assistant at the EERC, I had the opportunity to work with industry experts who shared extensive knowledge in reservoir engineering, use of new software, and project planning and execution,” said Page. “My experience helped me develop engineering skills to better prepare me as an industry professional.”

Originally from Colombia, South America, Gloria Rodriguez said that she now calls Grand Forks her hometown. She is a sophomore in Business and Public Administration Information Systems majoring in Networking. She is working in the EERC Research Information Systems (RIS) Group programming the EERC’s Web site.

“Working here gives me the chance to learn new skills and improve other ones. Every day, I go home with something new that I have learned. This job is giving me the tools to succeed on my career path—not just for building strong hard skills but soft skills such as team work and peer collaboration,” Rodriguez noted.

The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from and value the mentor–student relationship.

“One of the things that I really like about working with students is the sense of excitement and eagerness that they bring to the projects,” said John Hurley, Senior Research Advisor and mentor to two of the EERC’s new student employees, Garrett Georgeson and Subin Shahukhal.

Georgeson is a junior in Mechanical Engineering minoring in Mathematics. The Crystal, Minnesota, native is specializing in Material Science and Manufacturing, which makes his work developing a new process to produce turbine engine components with better mechanical properties and overall life cycles particularly relevant.

Shahukhal, who is from Kathmandu, Nepal, is in the final year of his master’s degree studies in Mechanical Engineering.

“I am working on setting up and testing a laboratory system that will hydraulically fracture reservoir rock plugs to better understand hydraulic fracturing in the field,” he said. “This has been a great opportunity to try to solve real-world engineering problems under the guidance of an expert.”  

The benefits to students of practical, guided work experience can be immediate and life-changing. 

“In addition to their valuable contributions to our research projects, students who engage in a mentored work experience are far more likely to stay at UND, graduate on time, and encounter better job opportunities upon graduation,” said Erickson.

New EERC Employee: Sara Lahr

The EERC is pleased to introduce Sara Lahr as the newest member of our Research Information Systems (RIS) group. Sara’s education, a B.A. degree in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota, Morris, and her prior work experience make her a valuable member of our team, providing software solutions for our clients that allow them to operate more efficiently and process large amounts of information quickly. Sara brings experience and expertise in developing Web-based applications, optimizing the user interface for efficiency and ease of use, and mobile application development to enhance accessibility and functionality for our clients.

Lahr’s strong work ethic started on a dairy farm near Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Her passion for software development started in her senior year of high school, when her math teacher recommended that she take a beginner computer science class which he also taught. “After that, I was hooked,” she says.

“I enjoy the variety of tasks that our team gets to work on as well as hearing about the different research projects that take place at the EERC,” says Lahr. “I have also been impressed by the helpfulness and friendliness of my coworkers.”

Lahr’s enjoyment of reading and learning about philosophy as well as advances and trends in the technology world help her continually prepare for the opportunities ahead. When not developing new software solutions, she loves baking, board games, classic literature, and spending time with friends and family.

New EERC Employee: Tao (Todd) Jiang

The EERC welcomes Tao (Todd) Jiang, a Research Engineer in Reservoir Engineering. In his new position, Todd uses oil and gas industry simulation software to develop geophysical models of the subsurface and run dynamic simulations to determine the long-term fate of produced/injected fluids, including hydrocarbons, CO2, and brine, for clients.

Todd brings key knowledge and expertise to our team, including the areas of reservoir and wellbore modeling and simulation, solvent and CO2-assisted enhanced oil recovery technology development and operation optimization, carbon capture and sequestration, field planning, and reservoir characterization.

He holds a Master of Applied Science degree in Petroleum Systems Engineering from the University of Regina and a bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering from Southwest Petroleum University in Sichuan, China.

“While I was pursuing a petroleum engineering degree, it just came to me that understanding the fluid flow behavior in the subsurface is key to increasing the value of a reservoir,” Todd says. “It is challenging because you are basically trying to understand reservoir and fluid flow behavior that you cannot see based on limited geologic and field data in order to allow for better, more economical development of an oil field.”

Todd says he likes that the work the EERC is doing provides not only important research data of value to the energy industry but helps society to reduce greenhouse gases, which will benefit future generations.

“It is also great to work in a multidisciplinary team where we discuss and share our expertise,” he says, which ultimately adds to the EERC’s research knowledge to better assist clients.

Todd was born in Shaanxi Province, China, and grew up in Xi’an, which had been the capital for 13 dynasties, including the Qing dynasty and the Tang dynasty. He and his wife have a son who was born on New Year’s Day this year. When he’s not working, Todd likes watching movies, traveling, and exploring nature and different cultures. 

New EERC Employee: Jess O'Brien

The EERC welcomes Research Instrumentation Technician Jess O’Brien to the EERC family. Jess installs, maintains, repairs, and operates instruments and equipment used in field-, pilot-, and bench-scale testing for client-driven research and projects.

He also participates in research work, including assisting with test programs, adapting equipment for nonstandard applications, and developing new sampling technologies. Jess holds A.A.S. degrees in Instrumentation and Control and Telecommunications from Bismarck State College.

Originally from Dickinson, North Dakota, Jess first became aware of the field of instrumentation and control while taking general college courses. After he talked to professors in the field, he knew he would enjoy the work, so he pursued it as a career.

“I really enjoy the work environment,” says Jess of the EERC. “Everyone is very friendly and willing to help if you ask.”

In his spare time, Jess likes to ride his motorcycle, hunt, and fish.

It’s been a whopping 530 years!

Combined years of service and expertise, that is. Thirty-one EERC employees were honored at the EERC on June 3, 2015, for their years of service to UND.

“We sincerely appreciate the time and dedication that each of these employees, and all of our employees, give to advancing the vision and mission of our organization and providing solutions for our clients,” said EERC Director, Tom Erickson.

These employees were also honored at UND’s Staff Recognition Luncheon held on May 12. 

Pictured are the honorees with their respective years of service given after their names:
Front row, left to right: Jane Russell (25), Sandra Van Eck (10), Loreal Heebink (15), Beth Kurz (15), Kari Gagner (5), Christin Fine (5), Erin O'Leary (25), and Lucia Romuld (25).

Middle row, left to right: Joyce Riske (25), Patricia Kleven (25), Kari Lindemann (15), Charlene Crocker (20), John Kay (20), Rhonda Olson (20), Susan White (20), Shannan Longsdorf (10), and Stacy Halverson (10).

Back row, left to right: Steve Smith (10), John Richter (25), Richard Schulz (30), Curt Foerster (30), Marc Kurz (20), John Hamling (5), Robert Jensen (20), Tami Votava (15), and Tom Erickson, EERC Director.

Not pictured: John Butler (5), Christopher Larson (5), Donald Schaffer (5), Steven Schlasner (5), Dan Daly (30), and David Westerman (35). 

Basic Research – Developing the Fundamentals Today to Address the Energy Challenges of Tomorrow

Basic research is an extremely critical component for advancing tomorrow’s energy solutions. Basic research involves the very early stage research activities in which industry is commonly not yet willing to invest because of the uncertainty and high risk. Basic research can support a broad range of critical energy initiatives, such as providing the foundation for new energy technologies that are more economical and environmentally friendly; developing new analytical techniques and new equipment to improve system understanding, efficiency, and design; and developing the experience and expertise necessary to rapidly respond to and get ahead of new issues as quickly as possible.

With a world-class staff of scientists, engineers, and support personnel, the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has been extremely successful in advancing applied research to serve the needs of industry, state, and federal organizations. The EERC has routinely worked with a wide variety of entities, including the oil and gas industry, the lignite industry, agricultural producers and processors, the wind industry, municipalities, and regional manufacturers. However, it must be understood that applied research, funded in part or wholly by industry, is commonly only made possible because of earlier basic research activities. Unfortunately, federal funding available for basic research has declined significantly over the last 5 years, especially with the loss of federal earmarks focused on strategic, critical, forward-thinking programs.

Because of its experience, the EERC knows how investments in research at the earliest stages of development can lead to tremendous economic and environmental successes. For example, starting with a small basic research program, the EERC developed and patented a mercury control technology which currently includes over 35 patents and pending patents. The path from concept to commercial product requires many forms of investment and development.

In order to develop new mercury control strategies, the EERC first had to develop new analytical techniques to measure mercury. It then needed to do fundamental studies to understand the complex chemical transformations that mercury goes through within a power plant and the atmosphere. Once this process was understood, only then could technologies emerge that led to full-scale demonstrations throughout the United States. What started as a relatively small basic research program grew into a large applied research program of tens of millions of dollars in federal and industry funding. The technology is now licensed to a North Dakota entity that has over 15 power plants currently contracted for commercial deployment. This EERC-developed technology has the ability to capture over 90% of the mercury from coal-fired power plants and save each utility millions of dollars a year compared to competing technologies. Basic research funding was a very small portion of the overall funding necessary to move this technology to market; however, it was arguably the most important funding.

For North Dakota’s future, basic research holds the key to unlocking the potentially colossal synergy between the lignite and oil and gas industries. The EERC is working to develop both the ways in which lignite power plants can produce low-cost electricity and capture the CO2 and, at the same time, the way CO2 can become a valuable tool for enhanced oil recovery in the Bakken.

North Dakota has the second-largest known reserves of lignite in the world (behind only Australia). It is estimated that the state’s reserves will last more than 835 years at the current rate of consumption. Despite these tremendous reserves, the long-range outlook for lignite use is in question because of regulatory uncertainty, especially regarding CO2emissions. At the same time, demand for electricity is expected to increase 3 GWe over current production by 2032 based on needs largely related to oil and gas production. 

The Bakken petroleum system is conservatively estimated to hold 300 billion barrels of oil. With current production methods, recovery factors are estimated at 3%–10%. The EERC is working to develop methods that will significantly increase that recovery factor. How much of the generated oil is recoverable remains to be determined, but even an increase of 1% in the recovery would produce as many 3 billion barrels of additional oil. In addition, the Bakken is an unconventional resource that requires an unconventional approach to tap its full potential. To date, a limited set of laboratory experiments and detailed characterization of the Bakken petroleum system have yielded promising results at the EERC. 

It is essential that the EERC build its basic research programs to go along with its tremendous applied research portfolio. How/where that funding is secured is currently unknown; however, what is certain is its necessity in fostering future energy development throughout North Dakota and the United States.

Successful basic research will lead to successful applied research, which will lead to demonstration projects and, eventually, to:
  • Next-generation coal facility(ies) being built in the state of North Dakota.
  • Recoverable oil from the Bakken growing by 100%, 200%, 300%, or more, with a smaller environmental footprint.
  • Existing power plants in North Dakota continuing to produce economical, reliable, and environmentally responsible electricity. 
  • Cost-effective and reliable renewable technologies that can be integrated into existing infrastructure. 
  • Continued availability of low-cost energy for sustaining North Dakota’s agricultural industry while increasing local fertilizer production, growing the production of biofuels and the utilization of agricultural residues. 

Carbon Dioxide Utilization – The North Dakota Advantage

carbon dioxide utilization
The demand for power in North Dakota is ever increasing. It is estimated that 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of additional electricity will be required for power in North Dakota by the year 2032. This poses a critical question: Will carbon capture technologies play a role in meeting that demand? The answer is yes, if all of the regional benefits are considered.

In North Dakota, coal is a widely used and abundant resource that will continue to supply affordable, environmentally sound energy to the state and beyond. North Dakota’s average electric rates are among the lowest in the United States, and more than 28,000 jobs in the state are due to the lignite industry. Not only is coal one of the lowest-cost options for power, it could also give the state a competitive advantage for the production of additional oil by providing CO2for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

So what opportunities does carbon capture offer industry in North Dakota? When carbon capture in the power generation sector is discussed, it must be discussed as an entire process: CO2 capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). It is important to investigate this in terms of current power plant technology, the available options for transporting the CO2 and, finally, the options for storage and use of the captured CO2. In addition, the cost of each factor must be taken into consideration, as they will ultimately affect the cost of electricity in a carbon-managed power production world.

Development of economically feasible carbon capture technology presents one of the biggest challenges to the fossil energy industry in the 21st century. New concepts and ideas are being generated each year. Many existing technologies are capable of capturing carbon from coal-fired power plants, but most are still too expensive and inefficient, and the long-term effects on technology performance and balance of plant operations are not understood. Further development and evaluation of these and new technologies are critical steps toward economical carbon capture.

At this time, most capture concepts are not ready for full-scale deployment. Today’s most deployable technologies rely on either solvents or sorbents to capture the CO2 from the flue gas stream, while coal gasification can also employ membranes for CO2separation. The integration of such technologies is anticipated to reduce the plant’s electricity output by as much as 35%. In fact, some smaller plants could shut down, as the cost of additional emission control, CO2 capture integration, and the energy penalty would be too great to overcome.

This is why the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to developing technologies to improve this situation. According to DOE, the wholesale cost of electricity could increase by 80% as a result of the projected cost of CO2 capture at $60 per metric ton. DOE has set a goal for second-generation technology to drop the cost of CO2 capture below $40 per metric ton by 2025. It is all part of a DOE-sponsored program to address the issues facing commercially viable carbon capture.

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota is also working to address these challenges. The Partnership for CO2 Capture (PCO2C) Program is evaluating several CO2 capture technologies that are among the most advanced systems under development. PCO2C was developed with the overall goal of advancing the state of CO2capture by evaluating and demonstrating those technologies with the best commercial viability for utility applications. In performing pilot-scale testing of these systems, PCO2C identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each technology to allow for enhanced performance and decreased costs for future applications.

What does this mean for North Dakota? In North Dakota alone, it is projected that an additional 2 to 3 GW of electrical energy will be required within the next two decades. As more and more technologies are advanced and demonstrated to cost-effectively capture CO2, current emission control technologies will be updated to accommodate those technologies. This will lead directly to the creation of additional coal industry-related jobs, as utilities are able to keep utilizing secure, low-cost fuel for power while progressing toward near-zero emissions. 

But beyond that is the incredible opportunity for the use of the captured CO2 in the oil and gas industry. Current demand for CO2 for EOR shows tremendous promise, with as much as 1 billion tons of CO2 demand for conventional EOR in the extended region and between 2 and 3.2 billion tons of potential demand for CO2in the Bakken, leading to a potential of 4–7 billion barrels of North Dakota oil produced through EOR.

COEOR involves injecting CO2 into an oil reservoir whereupon it mixes with the oil, creating a mixture of oil and CO2, freeing the oil from the rock, and driving additional oil to producing wells. CO2-based EOR is important in that it extends the life of existing oil fields. 

The expansion of the EOR industry is seriously dependent on the availability of CO2 to inject. With coal plants and other industrial facilities seeking to find a home for their emitted CO2, it becomes a matter of CO2 capture technology, economics, and mutual trust to develop joint ventures between these two industries that are so critical to America’s future and provide a transition to next-generation energy technology. This fosters yet another huge advantage for North Dakota’s energy industry. 

In addition, the emission reduction potential and sequestration associated with EOR is immense, and revenues from the oil produced partially offset the cost to the public and, ultimately, accelerate more widespread deployment of CCS in North Dakota. With the growing energy and carbon management concerns in North America, the contributions of CO2EOR need to be placed front and center to help drive technology improvements and reduce costs.

An additional 30 years or more of life in the Bakken can be gained by CO2-based EOR. This provides valuable employment, reduces the need to develop other new fields, and greatly enhances our North American oil supply while, at the same time, benefits the entire nation through a secure infrastructure anchored in North Dakota. 

New EERC Employee: Dr. Lu Jin

Dr. Lu Jin is a Research Engineer in the Reservoir Engineering Group at the EERC, where he uses oil and gas industry simulation software to develop geophysical models of the subsurface and run dynamic simulations to determine the long-term fate of produced/injected fluids, including hydrocarbons, CO2, and brine.

His principal areas of interest and expertise include modeling and simulation of multiphase flow in porous media, improved oil recovery technologies, and old oilfield redevelopment and phase behavior in unconventional reservoirs. Jin is particularly interested in subsurface
oil–water interactions, transition-zone development, and residual oil distribution identification. He has authored and coauthored numerous professional publications.

Before joining the EERC, Dr. Jin worked as a Reservoir Consultant for a joint industrial program at Louisiana State University (LSU) and a Reservoir Engineer at InPetro Technologies, Inc., in Houston, where he successfully completed various research and field implementation projects for both international and independent oil companies. He has extensive research experience in fluids flow in microporous structures and modeling phenomena of capillarity, adsorption, dispersion, etc., in both conventional and unconventional reservoirs.

Jin holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Petroleum Engineering from LSU and a B.S. degree in Petroleum Engineering from Northeast Petroleum University in Daqing, China.

“When I applied to go to college, I did not know much about majors, but I knew that energy is always important to society, so I chose petroleum engineering as my major,” said Jin.

Jin, who is from Zhejiang Province in southeastern China, is married and looking forward to starting a family. His favorite hobby outside of his work interests is table tennis, and he looks forward to meeting others on campus or in the city who play.  

Erin O’Leary Named Associate Director for Business and Operations at the EERC

Director of the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) Tom Erickson has named Erin O’Leary as Associate Director for Business and Operations. O’Leary had been serving as Interim Associate Director since July 2014, after Erickson was named Director of the EERC. Prior to this position, O'Leary served as Deputy Associate Director for Business.

“It is a pleasure to accept this new role, serving on the outstanding management team in place at the EERC and leading a highly dedicated and hardworking staff of Business and Operations professionals,” O’Leary said. “I’m excited to play a significant role in strengthening our financial future and implementing new strategic research initiatives.”

In her new position, O’Leary oversees the financial and operational activities of the Center, including Contracts, Accounting, Procurement, Travel, Resource Management, Computer Systems, Programming, Quality Assurance, Safety, Facilities, and Operations.

“I am very confident in Erin’s talents and ability to lead our Business and Operations units,” said Erickson. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Erin throughout my career at the EERC and am looking forward to her future accomplishments.”

O’Leary began her career at the EERC in 1989 as a Research Technician for the Combustion Studies group. She later became Manager of the Research Information Systems group, then Senior Research Manager, and finally the Deputy Associate Director for Business.

O'Leary received her Master's of Business Administration and Master's of Management degrees from the University of Mary and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from the University of North Dakota. 

“I am proud to be an alumnus and an employee of the University of North Dakota, and I look forward to a successful future at the EERC.”

Growing Focus for EERC Includes Mobile Energy Solutions for U.S. Military

EERC First to Create 100% Renewable Jet Fuel Through DARPA Contract

EERC Director Tom Erickson presented “EERC Innovations Applicable to Sustainable Military Mobile Power” during the Military Mobile Power Summit in Alexandria, Virginia.

Addressing the Summit’s focus on enhancing military capability through operational energy, Erickson’s presentation provided an overview for applying solutions that have been developed in other industrial areas to meet the needs of the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Homeland Security.

“As part of the EERC’s diversified research portfolio, we have several strategic areas we will be focusing on in the near future, which include sensors for unmanned aerial systems, big data analysis for the energy industry, and fuel and water resources for DoD,” said Erickson. “This Summit was a great opportunity for us to network with key Defense personnel, which will lead to future contracts.”

The EERC is also working on waste-to-energy technologies for military base camps.

Chris Zygarlicke, Deputy Associate Director for Research and Manager of the EERC’s Renewable Energy Programs, says several other distributed-scale biopower systems are under development at the EERC, specifically for remote locations without electrical grid connections.

“The EERC is currently developing methods to convert paper and food wastes from forward operating bases to electricity and heat using efficient and environmentally friendly distributed power generators,” Zygarlicke said. “These systems are not only of interest to the U.S. military but also to manufacturing industries utilizing challenging feedstocks for remote power generation.”