News Releases

Congressional hearing on energy, education: Mines poised to become leader to meet industry needs
Release Date Tuesday, June 24, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (June 24, 2014) – The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is poised to become one of America’s educational leaders in advanced exploration and production, meeting a growing need of the energy industry, according to university testimony before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources today in Washington, D.C.

Centrally located among three of the most important energy producing areas on the North American continent, the SD School of Mines & Technology is leveraging faculty research expertise in petrophysics, water resources and materials development and this fall will launch a new minor in Petroleum Systems, which is part of a broader Energy Resources Initiative.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Duane Hrncir, Ph.D., testified about the university’s expanding energy efforts before the Congressional subcommittee at an oversight hearing on “American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Education.” The School of Mines was among a select group of educational institutions invited to testify. Other representatives were from the Bingham Entrepreneurship & Energy Research Center at Utah State University; the Energy Institute at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford; Lackawanna College; Texas State Technical College System; and Greenfield Community College.

Fourteen of the SD School of Mines & Technology’s baccalaureate programs provide courses that directly relate to the needs of the energy industry, and graduates are hired by numerous companies who actively recruit on campus each year.

The new Petroleum Systems minor, along with a Graduate Certificate in Petroleum Systems for professionals being developed, are among the education components of the Energy Resources Initiative to serve both upstream and downstream energy industries.

The SD School of Mines & Technology is one of four universities in the nation to offer all three core disciplines for mineral industries – mining engineering, metallurgical engineering and economic geology. “Through their programs of study, our students gain an understanding of how these disciplines are entwined from the discovery of new mineral resources to the extraction of the resources, and finally the processing to obtain the strategic materials needed to fuel the nation’s economy,” according to Hrncir’s written testimony.

“With regard to the energy industry, our students are conducting research on reservoir modeling, advanced production techniques, sustainable engineering, advanced material design and microbial transformations of energy feedstocks, to name a few. These students will lead the next generation of engineers and scientists who will continue to develop the country’s energy needs in a sustainable way that protects the natural resources and quality of life valued by all of our citizens,” according to Hrncir.

Equidistant from the Williston Basin in North Dakota, the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and the Denver Basin in Colorado, the Rapid City science and engineering school is “attracting a growing number of industries to partner with the university to ensure that our graduates meet the current and future needs of the energy resource workforce,” according to Hrncir.

In April, the university announced a new Shale Research Initiative in which researchers will investigate the geomechanical and hydrological properties, mineralogy and composition of various shale units to further the scientific and engineering applications of shale and other fine-grained rocks. In partnership with RESPEC Consulting & Services and supported by the Department of Energy and the state of South Dakota, initial work will assess the feasibility of what would be the nation’s first underground shale research laboratory.

According to subcommittee documents, “The American energy boom has created new job opportunities across many sectors that require a skilled and educated workforce. Today’s educational institutions are working to ensure that students and future generations are prepared to fill these jobs. High schools are focusing on teaching skills and exposing high school kids to opportunities in the energy sector, community colleges are filling the gap in partnering to train skilled workers, and colleges are expanding geology and engineering programs and finding joint partnerships with industry to focus on filling workforce needs.”

The exploration and production of conventional energy resources (coal, oil and natural gas) have been an important part of the SD School of Mines & Technology’s educational history and remain a vital component of the curricula today, according to Hrncir’s testimony. The university was founded in 1885 to support the new mining of gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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About SDSM&T

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sdsmt and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sdsmt.