Norway-North Dakota oil connection continues to grow with new UND exchange

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http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/259217/group/News/

Published March 19, 2013, 07:15 AM

 

The Norway-North Dakota connection founded by 19th-century immigrants and “greased” by more recent ties in oil development continues to grow, as UND and the University of Bergen, Norway, look to establish a student, faculty and research exchange.

By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
The Norway-North Dakota connection founded by 19th-century immigrants and “greased” by more recent ties in oil development continues to grow, as UND and the University of Bergen, Norway, look to establish a student, faculty and research exchange.

Paal Davidsen, a professor of system dynamics at the Norwegian school, is expected in Grand Forks this week to formalize an agreement that will bring master’s degree and doctoral students from the western Norwegian school to North Dakota to examine impacts of oil development in the western part of the state.

Scott Johnson, an instructor in petroleum engineering in UND’s College of Engineering and Mines and principal adviser with the college’s Institute for Energy Studies, said Davidsen was scheduled to arrive Monday but may be delayed by weather.

Johnson said the prospective research will focus on system dynamics, or how various public agencies and other entities understand and deal with complex problems, such as the effects of rapid development on infrastructure.

Norway has become one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and gas since the discovery of off-shore deposits in the 1960s, and the country has dealt with many of the sorts of challenges North Dakota faces now, Johnson said.

Johnson, who started work at UND last summer after a 30-year career in the oil and gas industry, said the student and faculty research exchanges with Bergen could start in the fall.

Side effects

Researchers may look at policy choices facing a variety of public and private stakeholders as a result of rapid and substantial oil development, Johnson said, as well as unanticipated side effects “which are often delayed and thus difficult to account for” in early planning.

They may produce research that helps in “understanding how energy development in North Dakota might evolve over time, in the number of wells drilled, the amount of oil produced, the number of jobs, infrastructure requirements, water and electricity needs, and roads.”

The state already is grappling with impacts of the oil development, Johnson said, “but there still are plenty of choices available to North Dakota and the communities.” This new connection with Norway recognizes “that there’s something we could learn from them and their experience.”

Bruce Gjovig, director of the Center for Innovation at UND and a Norway booster, seconded the notion that Norwegians “have good expertise we can tap into,” and the recent visit to UND by the nation’s energy minister underscored Norway’s interest in the Bakken.

Statoil, the Norwegian energy giant majority-owned by the government, became a major player in the Bakken in 2011. By acquiring Brigham Exploration, Statoil took over drilling rights to 375,000 acres in the U.S. formation. Last October, the company announced it had leased 1,000 railroad cars to carry Bakken crude to refineries on the east and west coasts.

“What I find most interesting,” Gjovig said Monday, “is here is the world’s largest offshore oil developer taking a keen interest in learning about onshore development in the Bakken.”

Call Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1102; or send email to chaga@gfherald.com.

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