When the North Dakota Petroleum Council comes to UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), oil and gas production are sure to be the primary topics of discussion. But environmental solutions, events in Ukraine and partnerships with the agriculture industry also took center stage.
The NDPC last week held two days of meetings at the EERC. A lunch on Friday featured talks by all three members of North Dakota’s congressional delegation, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and UND President Andy Armacost. State legislators and other elected officials attended the event.
“We had two days of fantastic meetings at the EERC,” said Charlie Gorecki, EERC CEO. “We had an ag/oil session where we had industry leaders talking about how those two industries need to work together with the EERC and our government officials to advance those industries for the betterment of the people of North Dakota.”
Carbon capture comes to North Dakota
To underscore the significance of the discussions, Continental Resources founder and chairman Harold Hamm was on campus last Friday. On Wednesday, Hamm’s company and Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions announced the “largest of its kind carbon capture and sequestration project” in which Continental will invest $250 million.
The two-year project will develop and construct facilities to capture and transport 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a greenhouse gas – per year from 31 ethanol plants in Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa. The CO2 will be transported by pipeline to North Dakota where it will be sequestered in subsurface geologic formations.
Hamm stressed that Continental has been in North Dakota for more than 25 years, is the state’s largest leaseholder and biggest oil and gas producer.
“No company knows the geology better than we do,” he said. “The regulatory environment is second to none and we are grateful to North Dakota’s leadership, who has been laying the groundwork for a project like this and been a leader in sequestration for nearly 20 years.”
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said, “Just as North Dakota cracked the code to economically extract oil and gas from Bakken shale, we will crack the code on CO2 sequestration,”
Thanks to EERC research, long-range planning, geology ideal for carbon storage and environmental regulations already in place, Hoeven said North Dakota is one of two states in the nation where large-scale carbon sequestration can occur. He expects some of the CO2 to be used for enhanced oil recovery in the Bakken shale formation.
“It enables us to continue to be an energy powerhouse and lead the way forward for this country,” he explained. “And it’s not just about producing more energy more dependably, more cost effectively and having all the great jobs. It’s solving all the environmental issues, those challenges – like it or not – we’ve got to deal with to continue to provide energy to our nation.”
Focusing on Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its potential impact on North Dakota and world energy markets was also a topic of great interest. U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was in Ukraine just six weeks ago for an energy roundtable meeting.
“We have a moment right now – with everything from carbon capture, utilization and storage to nuclear energy to cleaning up coal – because Europe is learning a really tough lesson the really hard way,” he said.
“We have the story to tell,” Cramer continued. “North Dakota tells it better than anybody because we have the experts, the people who are naturally attuned to sustainability.”
Congressman Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., echoed and amplified Cramer’s message.
“We’re not going to feed the world with rooftop gardens in the Bronx,” he said. “We’re not going to power the world with rainbows and unicorns.
“We are going to use products North Dakota has, whether it’s corn, whether it’s soybeans, whether it’s coal, whether it’s natural gas or whether it’s wind,” Armstrong added. “But the federal government shouldn’t mandate how we do it. We should allow our communities, our members of business, our workers and our citizens to determine that future.”
Sanford said he was grateful for the entrepreneurs and risk-takers in the oil and gas industry who led the fracking revolution and unlocked North Dakota’s vast energy resources.
“Without you, we wouldn’t be talking about the Bakken at all,” he said. “How lucky are we to have this resource, especially at this time of international tension and conflict?
“We should be selling energy to our friends and our allies versus asking our enemies – who are now doing what they’re doing in Ukraine – to produce more oil,” he emphasized. “It’s absolutely absurd.”
Sanford said North Dakota is positioned to lead the world in developing new carbon markets.
“We can take the lead and usher in a new phase of economic development in North Dakota with ag and energy partnering for these solutions,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, members of the NDPC and other participants toured a UND College of Engineering & Mines research center in north Grand Forks that houses the Petroleum Engineering Department’s Drilling and Completions Lab (DRACOLA) and four other projects.
Department chair Vamegh Rasouli, a Continental Resources Distinguished Professor, thanked the NDPC and the North Dakota Industrial Commission for their support of DRACOLA. He said it was the only facility in the world that can simulate real drilling operations at real field scale for training. Ideally, he wants the oil and gas industry to see it as a low-cost training facility to provide hands-on training.
“We also want to educate the next generation of students with the highest technology in drilling and advanced-level automation to make this place a drilling hub,” he said. “And we want to do research projects in other areas, such as geothermal.”
Q&A with Harold Hamm
To wrap up the event, Hamm held a question-and-answer session with geology, geological engineering and petroleum engineering students at CEM’s Collaborative Energy Complex. Brian Tande, CEM dean, introduced Hamm as “somebody who’s had an absolutely enormous impact on our college, our geology, geological engineering and petroleum engineering programs – really, the entire state of North Dakota.”
Hamm noted, “I had a lot of mentors in my life growing up. So I always want to be one if I can. I enjoy meeting with students and talking with them to answer questions.”
Hamm tackled questions ranging from careers in petroleum engineering to oil price trends to how sanctions might impact Russia. He described the evolution occurring with alternative fuels, but predicted that the world was going to need more energy, whether it’s from fossil fuels, wind, solar or alternative sources.
“Everybody wonders where the future of the industry is going to go long-term,” he offered. “We’re going to clean the environment up and it’s got to be done worldwide.
“Companies can’t do it; people can’t do it,” Hamm said. “Countries have to do it to force everybody to clean up the air that we breathe. It’s real important. I think we’ll see more of that go on as time goes forward.”
Armacost said UND was honored to have the NDPC gathering on campus and provide spaces for important discussions to occur. He noted that the University is about to launch a new strategic plan that includes the important role of energy in North Dakota’s economy and workforce.
“Energy plays an incredible role in that strategic plan and how we as an institution can redouble our efforts to make sure that we give your industry what you need from our research enterprise and the education we give to our students,” he said. “That education prepares them for the workforce. It prepares them to do great things within your industry.”