UND’s petroleum engineering program wins outstanding achievement award from Williston Basin American Petroleum Institute

College of Engineering & Mines recognized for its new drilling lab, as well as for its research and training capabilities

Members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission visited UND College of Engineering research facilities, including the Drilling and Completions Lab. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

The petroleum engineering program at the University of North Dakota has received the outstanding achievement award from the Williston Basin chapter of the American Petroleum Institute.

The award, one of the most prestigious in the oil and gas industry, recognizes outstanding achievement in the Williston Basin which has made a significant impact or changes the way something is done. It was given during the 2021 Williston Petroleum Banquet, a celebration of the oil and gas industry in the Williston Basin.

UND was recognized for its new Drilling & Completion Lab (DRACOLA), one of the world’s largest oil drilling simulators, as well as for its research and training capabilities for the oil and gas industry and the state of North Dakota. More than 180 graduates now work in the state and support the industry.

“This could not have happened without the support of the North Dakota Industrial Commission and our Industry Advisory Council,” said Vamegh Rasouli, department chair and Continental Resources Distinguished Professor of Petroleum Engineering. “The state of North Dakota deserves the best possible petroleum engineering program, and we are very close. We didn’t have much when we started the program six years ago. Now we have some of the best facilities in the world.”

Rasouli added that UND’s program is now one of the top three doctoral programs for enrollment.

“We are very grateful for the recognition and support of the American Petroleum Institute and the North Dakota petroleum industry,” said Brian Tande, dean of the UND College of Engineering & Mines. “Oil and gas are an important part of the state’s economy, and we are very proud to be able to support this industry by producing high-quality petroleum engineers. Dr. Rasouli deserves considerable credit for what he has been able to do with this program.”

The drilling and completion laboratory is a $40-million experimental facility in Grand Forks that enables petroleum engineering students to simulate general and deep drilling. They can test-drill different rocks, including shale, as well as simulate oil reservoir conditions, including temperature, pressure and fluid flow. The lab also serves as a research facility that benefits the state of North Dakota.

The equipment was donated by Sidney Green, an entrepreneur, founder/president of Enhanced Production, Inc. in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a research professor at the University of Utah. Installation of the lab was supported by the North Dakota Oil & Gas Research Council and the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which approved $2.78 million in financial support over three years. Additional funds from industry and governmental research support students and laboratory development.

UND Petroleum Engineering also has 10 existing labs in the department, including a smaller-scale automated drilling rig simulator, a “conventional” drilling simulator, slurry loop, multiphase flow and pipeline simulation lab, and a virtual reality lab.

UND has the state’s only petroleum engineering program, which began in 2010 in response to demand for engineers in the Bakken Oil fields. A doctoral program began in 2016 to fill oil and gas research needs. UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center, which houses the State Energy Research Center, supports many of the petroleum engineering students by offering graduate research assistantships, as well as hiring graduates.

“UND can do things no one else can,” Rasouli said. “The oil and gas industry wants to hire people from North Dakota,” Rasouli said. “Our education is hands-on and practical, and we appreciate the assistance from industry.”

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Caption:

ND Industrial Commission visits drilling lab: Members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission toured UND’s Drilling and Completions Lab and a pilot-scale plant to extract rare earth elements from coal in August 2021. From left to right are Vamegh Rasouli, petroleum engineering chair; Harry Feilen, DRACOLA director; Brian Tande, CEM dean; Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring; Gov. Doug Burgum; and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.