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EERC Welcomes Sofiane Djezzar

The EERC is pleased to welcome Dr. Sofiane Djezzar as a Geoscientist, where he develops and oversees the development of geophysical models of the subsurface, performs regional characterization, and performs petrophysical analyses of geophysical well log data, interfacing with a diverse team of scientists and engineers to assess project uncertainties in oil and gas development and geologic CO2 storage.

Sofiane holds a Ph.D. degree in Petroleum Engineering from UND and Magistere and Engineer degrees in Structural Geology from Houari Boumerdiene Sciences and Technology University, Bab-Ezzouar, Algiers, Algeria. He is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, American Rock Mechanics Association, and Algerian Association of Gas Industry. Sofiane has authored or coauthored numerous professional publications.

Sofiane became interested in working at the EERC while he was enrolled at UND to obtain his Ph.D., where he attended Lunch and Learn sessions presented by EERC experts. He said it is one of the nicest places to work and is his dream come true. “I am working on very interesting and challenging projects related to reservoir characterization, CO2 injection, and storage,” said Sofiane. “I am using the latest technologies and software related to these topics.” 

Prior to his position at the EERC, Sofiane worked for Sonatrach, an Algerian oil company, from 1998-2016 as a geologist and geoscientist. More recently, he was an instructor and teaching assistant at UND, and a research assistant at the EERC until he was hired into his new role. 

Sofiane and his wife have been married for 20 years. She is a Ph.D. student at UND studying Petroleum Engineering and will graduate in December. Sofiane has varied interests outside of his work, including swimming and scuba diving. His favorite diving experience was in the Mediterranean Sea. He also enjoys reading and watching movies, especially science fiction and history.

Thermal Recycling of Plastics

“Thermal Recycling of Plastics” provides a comprehensive review of research conducted to evaluate the conversion of waste plastics to hydrocarbon liquids and gasses suitable for reuse. Tests were performed on a wide variety of plastics and mixtures in a pilot-scale reactor at the EERC.

Click here to download the full EERC Thermal Recycling of Plastics report.

EERC Welcomes Lingyun Kong

The EERC is pleased to welcome Dr. Lingyun Kong as a Research Scientist in the Natural Materials Analytical Research Laboratory. Lingyun is responsible for conducting laboratory analyses and interpreting data in support of research activities related to improved production of unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, enhanced oil recovery in unconventional and conventional formations, and subsurface storage of CO2 and/or rich gas.

Lingyun holds a Ph.D. degree in Petroleum Engineering from UND; a Master of Geological Resources and Geological Engineering from the China University of Petroleum, Beijing; and a Bachelor of Resource Exploration Engineering from China University of Petroleum, East China.

Lingyun likes the working environment at the EERC, which he describes as comfortable and friendly. He is just beginning his career and feels this position fits his background and the skills he obtained while earning his Ph.D.

“My supervisor, Shane [Butler], and Beth [Kurz] are very approachable and professional, and I am very happy to work with them,” said Lingyun. He is appreciative of the opportunities that have been provided to him to advance his expertise and broaden his knowledge.

Before Lingyun started in his position, he completed a summer internship at the EERC that helped him determine this job would be a great fit. He first heard about the EERC while in school for his doctorate degree and knew of the prestigious partnerships and large number of applied research projects the EERC is awarded each year.

Lingyun grew up in China and came to the United States to pursue his Ph.D. His wife is a current Ph.D. candidate at UND in the Geological Engineering department. They enjoy cooking Chinese food and traveling. Lingyun also likes playing soccer and watching the English Premier League.

Almlie, Helms: Innovation Leads, Regs Follow

Opinion editorial written by Jay Almlie and Lynn Helms, published on October 20, 2019.

Jay Almlie

In May 2017, Gov. Doug Burgum asked oil and gas pipeline operators with assets in the state to participate in a daylong conversation on the topic of spills. The meeting came on the heels of several high-visibility spills in the state, as well as the nationally publicized Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests.

Gov. Burgum’s message to the operators was that the public had zero tolerance for pipeline spills or leaks. Rather than threaten with a heavy hand of regulation however, he challenged the industry to apply technology and innovation to improve pipeline integrity and safety.

One result was the formation of North Dakota’s intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program (iPIPE), an approach that lets innovation lead and regulation follow, resulting in smarter, more practical policy. Here’s why it makes sense: In the age of social media, even small leaks can become big news, shared widely and perceived as a disaster. The cost of innovative technology and increased regulations could be a lot less than the price of lost social license due to public scrutiny.

Lynn Helms
On the other hand, regulators find it extremely difficult to keep up with the speed of technological innovation. Innovation is forward-looking and proactive, whereas regulation is often backward-looking. Regulation is in a race to keep up with innovation, if it’s working properly. So, how to break this cycle?

North Dakota’s answer was to have regulators mandate the result, but leave the process for getting there to industry. In the case of iPIPE, six major industry leaders stepped forward to work with the state’s oil and gas research and regulatory bodies, both under the direction of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, to foster creation and application of new technology to better detect and prevent pipeline leaks.

Each industry member contributes annually and commits to a multi-year program to ensure momentum. North Dakota provides cost match funding to the program, leveraging the available resources. Technology providers also provide substantial cost sharing to ensure they have a vested interest in the iPIPE process in return for a forum to test their products.

With coordination and support from the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center, the iPIPE Technology Selection Panel hears presentations in a process some have likened to the television show “Shark Tank.” iPIPE hosts development and demonstration activities and provides feedback to advance the product offering closer to a commercial state.

Shared knowledge is at the core of iPIPE, as members share common challenges and solutions openly within this forum, elevating everyone’s performance in the safe delivery of oil and gas fluids to market. By their active participation, members demonstrate responsible citizenship to landowners, the general public, and regulators alike.

North Dakota’s progressive approach of funding cutting-edge research to maximize economic benefits from its oil fields, while minimizing environmental impacts, is making a difference beyond its borders as well. Companies with no operations in North Dakota have joined iPIPE, applying beneficial technologies in such areas as the DJ Basin of Colorado, the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas, and the Alberta Basin in Canada. iPIPE was among topics discussed at this year’s national “Energy Disruptors” conference hosted by energy data analytics provider Enverus.

Waiting for regulation often results in worse outcomes than being proactive about it. Regulation precipitated by an incident leaves regulators playing catch-up, companies playing defense, and the public mistrustful. Such regulation merely ensures the laggards meet minimum standards. Encouraging and supporting innovation allows operators to push the envelope on new technologies and best practices that regulation then follows.

Jay Almlie is a principal engineer at the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota and manages iPIPE on behalf of the consortium members.

Lynn Helms is director of the Department of Mineral Resources for the State of North Dakota.

DOE Funds Projects Involving EERC

By Patrick C. Miller, UND Today

The U.S. Department of Energy is providing Minnkota Power Cooperative with $9.8 million for Project Tundra, a carbon capture, utilization and storage project at the Milton R. Young Station near Center, N.D., in which UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center is involved. Image courtesy Minnkota Power Cooperative.

UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has confirmed a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announcement made in mid-September that the agency is funding two projects in which the Center is involved.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven previously said the EERC will receive $5 million from DOE for its Plains Carbon Dioxide Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Initiative to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies. In addition, Hoeven said Grand Forks-based Minnkota Power Cooperative (MPC) will receive $9.8 million for Project Tundra in which the EERC is involved.

According to DOE, the EERC will form the PCOR Partnership to foster the development of carbon capture, utilization and storage in northwestern states and Canadian provinces.

“Areas included in this region are dominated by fossil energy production and coincide with abundant opportunities for geologic storage in sedimentary basins,” the agency said. “The partnership will identify and address onshore regional transport challenges facing commercial deployment of CCUS in an expanded region, compared to past initiatives.”

DOE visits EERC

In August, Hoeven brought two top federal officials to the EERC — Steven Winberg, DOE assistant secretary for fossil energy, and Lou Hrkman, DOE deputy assistant secretary for clean coal and carbon management. They toured EERC facilities and discussed research opportunities with the Center, including Project Tundra and PCOR. Hoeven is a member of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee.

In August, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (right) brought Steven Winberg, DOE assistant secretary for fossil energy, to the EERC to discuss Project Tundra and the Plains Carbon Dioxide Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Initiative. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

According to Minnkota, the $9.8 million award from the DOE provides access to $15 million from the state of North Dakota’s Lignite Research Fund. The cooperative said funding will be used to conduct a Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) study on Project Tundra’s proposed carbon capture system at the Milton R. Young Station near Center, N.D.

“Project Tundra is a unique opportunity for North Dakota to lead the world in the advancement of carbon capture technologies,” said Mac McLennan, Minnkota president and CEO. “This Department of Energy grant will assist us in completing advanced research and engineering design on the project – one of the final steps before deciding whether to move forward and begin construction.”

$1 billion project

With an estimated cost of $1 billion, the goal for Project Tundra is to equip Unit 2 at the coal-based Young Station with technologies designed to capture more than 90 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The CO2 would then be permanently stored in a deep geologic formation more than a mile underground. The FEED study will support advanced design work, engineering and evaluation of project economics.

The UND Energy & Environmental Research Center is considered a leader in developing carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies that have application around the world. Image courtesy EERC.

“North Dakota is leading the way in developing CCUS technologies and these funds will help to advance these efforts, including enabling the completion Project Tundra’s engineering and design study,” Hoeven said. “Developing and deploying this technology is a win both for consumers, who will continue to have access to affordable energy, and for environmental stewardship.”

During the EERC visit, Hoeven noted that many countries will continue to use coal as an energy source. He stressed the importance of “cracking the code” to make CCUS technologically and economically viable.

“If we crack the code, it doesn’t just work in North Dakota, it works across the country and it works around the globe,” he said. “Why don’t we develop the solution so they can do it with the best economics and the best environmental standards?”

In addition to research on the CO2 capture system, Minnkota is also conducting significant research on deep geologic storage of CO2 near the Young Station. A geophysical survey will be completed near Center to gather information about rock layers in the deep subsurface.

EERC Welcomes Kevin Connors

Kevin Connors has joined the EERC as a Principal Policy & Regulatory Strategist. Within the Subsurface group, Kevin works with a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and business professionals to integrate legal and regulatory policy, economics, and tax perspectives with applied research related to incremental oil recovery, unconventional oil recovery, and CO2 capture and geologic storage. He holds a B.S. degree in geology from the University of Montana.

“I enjoy working on multiple projects. I am always learning something new and it seems like no 2 days are the same. Carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) has been one of my passions in my career, so I’m excited to contribute to the EERC’s efforts in advancing CCUS. I also enjoy getting to work with both the Subsurface team and the Energy Systems team,” Kevin said. 

Kevin first heard about the EERC when he began working in CCUS for the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Oil and Gas Division and participated in the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership meetings. He was drawn to his position at the EERC after working with the Center in previous roles he had with the State. Kevin said he had always recognized the EERC’s reputation as a leader in energy research and had great experiences with the EERC staff he met. 

Kevin grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and began his career working in the Bakken as a wellsite geologist. He eventually moved to North Dakota with his wife and son in 2010 when he began working for the State of North Dakota’s Oil and Gas Division. During those 8-plus years, Kevin worked in oil and gas development, CCUS, enhanced oil recovery, saltwater disposal, and gathering pipeline regulation. Also during that time, four of Kevin and his wife’s five children were born in North Dakota. Kevin and his family moved to Grand Forks in August of this year when Kevin accepted the job at the EERC, and the family is enjoying their new community. 

Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife and children, ages 10, 8, 6, 4, and 1. He also enjoys camping, hiking, and fly fishing in his free time. Kevin shares the EERC’s love of giving back and currently serves as a board member for the nonprofit organization Lespwa Lavi, which means “living hope” in Haitian Creole. The organization is headquartered in North Dakota and is developing a project to build a school, church, and medical clinic in rural Haiti.

EERC Welcomes Michelle Manthei

The EERC is pleased to welcome Michelle Manthei, Communications Coordinator with the Communications team. Michelle coordinates and assists in the development and planning of EERC communication and outreach activities.

“I love learning and hearing about all the research and great projects happening at the EERC,” Michelle said. “I have been able to meet new people every day, and the personal connections make the research that much more amazing.”

Michelle completed her bachelor’s degree in Communication at the University of North Dakota (UND) in August 2019 and was drawn to her position because it offered the opportunity to directly use her communication skills and knowledge. She previously worked as an Event Coordinator at the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. She started there as a student and worked her way up into a full-time position during her third year of college.

Michelle was raised in Grand Forks and enjoys living close to her immediate family members. She also likes traveling, seeing old friends, and trying new foods.

The Honorable Charles McConnell Receives 2019 Pioneer Award

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The Honorable Charles McConnell, Executive Director for Carbon Management and Energy Sustainability at the University of Houston (UH), is the 2019 Pioneer Award recipient.

The award was presented as part of the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership (PCOR) annual meeting, held at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) in Grand Forks. The Pioneer Award honors outstanding service to carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). Nine of the 24 previous Pioneer Award recipients were in attendance as McConnell received the award. 

“It is an honor and privilege to work with the EERC and the Partnership and participate as a member of the EERC Foundation Board of Directors,” said McConnell. “The recognized accomplishments in CCUS by the partnership are leading the market in the United States and for the world and have been a large part of my professional and personal career in energy. To be recognized as this year’s Pioneer Award winner is gratifying and humbling, and my only hope is to contribute further to the transformative progress led by my colleagues and friends here.” 

Prior to joining UH Energy, McConnell was Executive Director of the Energy and Environment Initiative at Rice University. He served as Assistant Secretary of Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from 2011 to 2013. McConnell also previously served as Vice President of Carbon Management at Battelle Energy Technology in Columbus, Ohio, and with Praxair, Inc., as the Global VP of Energy and Hydrogen. He is currently a board member of the EERC Foundation, is a member of the National Coal Council, has served on the Society of Petroleum Engineers and National Petroleum Council subcommittees, and has held a number of board positions, including chairmanships of the Gasification & Syngas Technologies Council and the Clean Carbon Technology Foundation of Texas. 

The PCOR Partnership is led by the EERC at the University of North Dakota. Since 2003, the program has worked with over 120 public and private stakeholders to address carbon dioxide management as a viable solution to national energy and environmental concerns. 

A panel of industry CEOs provided the highlight for the 2019 annual meeting by conveying the sense of excitement that CCUS technology is generating in the PCOR Partnership region and beyond, as recent U.S. tax legislation has created a sense of urgency in driving forward the business case for CCUS projects. Chaired by McConnell, the panel included Wade Boeshans of BNI Energy, Chris Kendall of Denbury, John Minge of BP America, Mac McLennan of Minnkota Power Cooperative, and Paul Sukut of Basin Electric Power Cooperative. The annual meeting also featured presentations regarding recent PCOR Partnership accomplishments and other key CCUS projects. The Honorable Angelos Kokkinos, DOE, shared information on the DOE Fossil Energy Program. Kate Ryan discussed Denbury’s pioneering work in carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery, and attendees heard about various CCUS developments from Brent Sheets from the University of Alaska, Scott Quillinan with the University of Wyoming, David Greeson from the Proven Project Development Group, and Wes Peck from the EERC. 

For more information about the PCOR Partnership, visit

EERC Welcomes Jahangir Masud

Dr. Jahangir Masud has joined the EERC as a Research Scientist in the Electrochemical Process Development group. Masud works with a multidisciplinary team to conduct research on platinum group metal-free electrocatalysts on carbon-free supports for proton exchange membrane fuel cell applications.

“As an electrochemist in the field of energy, I knew the EERC to be one of the pioneer research centers providing solutions to today's most critical energy and environmental challenges through innovative science and engineering,” said Masud. 

His principal areas of interest and expertise include energy storage and conversion, electrocatalyst synthesis, and electrocatalysis. He is currently working on a project to develop carbon-free catalyst support for proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). 

“I am an electrochemist, so this is exactly the type of role I was looking for. At the EERC, I have freedom to explore different research areas in the field of energy. I am confident I will help make a major contribution and become a valuable member of the energy research team,” said Masud. 

Masud holds a Doctor of Science in Electrochemistry from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan. He received his Master of Science in Organic Chemistry and his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Shahjalal University of Science & Technology, Bangladesh. 

Originally from Bangladesh, Masud moved to the United States in December 2012 when he joined the University of Kansas Chemical & Petroleum Engineering department as a research scholar. Prior to joining the EERC, Masud served as a Research Associate at Missouri S&T in Rolla, Missouri. 

Masud is the proud father of two sons, one who just entered 2nd grade and one who just turned 1 year old. In his free time, Masud and his wife enjoy spending time with their sons as well as fishing, kayaking, traveling, and playing badminton.