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University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

A true champion for energy

Ron Ness, North Dakota Petroleum Council president, presented with EERC’s Energy Champion Award

North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness was named the 2022 Energy Champion during a ceremony Tuesday at the UND Energy & Environmental Research Center. Photo by Kari Suedel/EERC.

Ron Ness, chairman of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, on Tuesday was named the 12th recipient of the Energy Champion Award presented by the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center.

The award was presented on campus at the EERC during its annual Energizing North Dakota’s Future conference. UND President Andrew Armacost helped open the event, which included presentations by U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, as well as other state officials.

In making the Energy Champion presentation, EERC CEO Charles Gorecki said that “for more than 30 years, Ness’ leadership and commitment to clean, sustainable energy development in North Dakota have resulted in impacts that reach beyond the state to the nation and the world.”

Ron Ness

Ness has served on the EERC Foundation board of directors for 13 years, chairing the board the past few years. In this role, Ness was instrumental in helping to enhance and transform the foundation, Gorecki said.

Ness has actively participated in the EERC’s Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Program, receiving its Pioneer Award in 2009; the Bakken Production Optimization Program; and iPIPE (Intelligent Pipeline Integrity) Program since their inception, as well as partnering with the EERC on countless other projects in North Dakota.

Gorecki called Ness an incredible mentor, partner and friend to the EERC through the years.

“For this and his dedication to clean, sustainable energy development for his entire career, the EERC is honored to present Ron Ness with the 2022 Energy Champion Award,” Gorecki said.

One tough nut

John Harju, EERC vice president for strategic partnerships, remembered a phone call he made to Ness in 2002. “I said, ‘Hey, I just moved back to North Dakota. I’m going to help you reinvent oil and gas production in the Williston Basin.’”

Ness laughed at him. And then when Harju at last got a meeting scheduled, Ness canceled it.

“Wow,” Harju joked. “This guy’s going to be a tough nut to crack!”

But eventually, Harju and Ness became good friends, NDPC’s relationship with the EERC improved and North Dakota became one of the largest energy-producing states in the nation, thanks to technologies developed at the EERC to economically extract oil and gas from the Bakken shale formation.

“Obviously, it’s blossomed into something much, much bigger as the North Dakota Petroleum Council has grown and its influence has grown,” Harju said.

Kathy Neset, president of Neset Consulting Service Inc. and former member of North Dakota’s State Board of Higher Education, recalled making hundreds of visits to small towns in western North Dakota, where she and Ness gave talks on the oil and gas industry to help inform and educate the public.

Neset, who has eight brothers, called Ness “the consummate professional” and added, “I really consider you a brother, and that’s just about the biggest compliment I can give anyone.”

Ron Ness visits with well-wishers after receiving the EERC’s Energy Champion Award. Photo by Kari Suedel/EERC.

U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said, “I know there’s not a single person in the state who has as much involvement with the success of the North Dakota energy industry as Ron Ness.”

Armstrong credited Ness’ skill in dealing with competing interests on contentious issues among government entities, businesses and legislators as one of his greatest assets to the state.

“There’s this huge misconception with the oil and gas industry that it’s just a large, homogenous group of people who are always doing the same thing,” he said. “And I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth.”

Throughout it all, Armstrong said Ness has retained his passion for the industry because he knows how important it is for North Dakota, which will be key to meeting and addressing future challenges.

Understanding energy’s importance

“Ron does it with energy; he does it with enthusiasm; and he’s done it with excellence,” Armstrong said. “He knows where the next fights are and works to engage people all across the country to ensure North Dakota has a seat at the table. He loves all things North Dakota and understands how important energy is for future success.

“I think that’s probably what I’d say about Ron as much as anything,” he continued. “He doesn’t support energy for energy’s sake. He supports energy because it is what’s going to drive North Dakota throughout the 21st century. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than you.”

When Ness spoke after accepting the award, he asked members of the EERC staff to stand.

“These are the energy champions, and all we have to do is support them,” he said. “It’s easy being a champion for this group of people because I think your time is now; our time is now.

“We have a chance to lead the world,” he added. “We know that the future generation wants a cleaner form of energy. They just don’t what it’s going to look like. It’s going to be a transition to cleaner fossil fuels, not a transition away from it.”

Ness has been president of NDPC since 1999. His primary role is in government relations in North Dakota. He serves as the industry spokesperson and manages the association, which represents more than 700 companies involved in all aspects of North Dakota’s oil and gas industry. Under his leadership, North Dakota oil production has increased from 80,000 barrels per day to more than 1.1 million barrels per day.

Before joining NDPC, Ness was president of the North Dakota Retail and Petroleum Marketers Association. He also spent 10 years with the state of North Dakota, primarily as deputy commissioner of labor.

Ness was appointed by North Dakota Govs. Ed Schafer, John Hoeven, Jack Dalrymple and Doug Burgum to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, the Oil and Gas Research Council, the Empower North Dakota Commission and the Governor’s Revenue Advisory Committee. As an Empower North Dakota Commissioner, he advocated for the creation of the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority and for the designation of the EERC as the State Energy Research Center.

Ness serves as the chairman of the board for Sanford Health Bismarck. He is also on the board of directors for the national Mule Deer Foundation, the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance and the Council for Secure America, and he serves on the board of regents at the University of Mary. He previously served as chairman of the board of Leadership North Dakota.