North Dakota leaders spent time Tuesday learning how UND’s new full-scale drilling rig and experimental facility will bring research benefits to the state and its industry leaders.

Gov. Doug Burgum, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring toured the UND Drilling & Completion Laboratory/Research Facility, located in the old Minnkota Power Plant building off Mill Road, on Tuesday afternoon, July 27.

The experimental facility contains a drilling rig, similar to what someone would find out in the field and rare earth elements pilot plant, said Brian Tande, dean of UND’s College of Engineering and Mines. The setup gives the university some unique capabilities, as well as the ability to have industry partners come in to train and run experiments and scenarios that may be difficult to play out in real life, Tande said.

“Drilling an entire well in western North Dakota is pretty costly,” he said. “So this lab will allow them to experiment with different parameters, study different types of rock and other parameters in the drilling operation and learn a lot that they can then use to optimize their drilling operations in the field.”

The college first announced the project back in 2020, but putting the rig together has taken some time. Tande said there still are some final touches to finish; the college hopes to have a large grand opening in the fall.

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Once fully completed the approximately $40 million facility will be the first of its kind. The projects have received funding from various sources including $6.5 million from the U.S Department of Energy for rare earth elements work, as well as dollars from the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

"This is an important project that you're working on," Burgum said after Tande thanked the state for its support for the work.

The project has provided a tremendous opportunity for student learning, Tande said, noting students were closely involved in the design and construction of the rig.

Petroleum engineering students will be able to simulate general drilling and deep drilling, along with testing different rocks, including shale, through the lab. Students also will be able to simulate oil reservoir conditions, including temperature, pressure and fluid flow.

Tande also sees the facility, which includes a rare earth extraction pilot plant, as a way to connect with western North Dakota and provide valuable research to industry leaders and state officials.

“My goal, since becoming dean (in 2020), has been to really be able to demonstrate the value that we bring to the entire state,” he said, noting he grew up in western North Dakota. “I'm very committed to making sure that we're doing what we can and that everything we do is aligned with the needs of the state. This is one of the ways in which we're doing that.”

The basic equipment was donated by Sidney Green, an entrepreneur, founder and president of Enhanced Production Inc. in Salt Lake City. When Green retired from Schlumberger, a large international oilfield services company, he acquired the equipment, the Herald previously reported. Green’s intention was to find a new home to re-establish this unique research equipment.

A number of research universities, national laboratories and international companies were considered, but Green ultimately decided on UND after visiting with Vamegh Rasouli, Continental Resources distinguished professor of petroleum engineering and department chair.