Energy Resources Initiative

Who we are 

Dan Soeder, Director

Daniel J. Soeder is the Energy Resources Initiative director at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SD Mines). He holds BS and MS degrees in geology, and brings 25 years of experience to SD Mines as a former government research scientist, hydrologist and geologist with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Geological Survey, along with an additional decade of experience at the Gas Technology Institute in Chicago, IL. His research includes shale gas, tight oil, geothermal, water resources, groundwater contamination, nuclear waste isolation, and the geological sequestration of carbon dioxide.  

Phone: 605-394-2802

Personal Website

Graduate Research Assistants

 The ERI maintains multiple opportunities for graduate students to participate on a variety of relevant energy research projects. Ongoing studies in areas related to oil and gas, geothermal and energy and environment are available to students. ERI graduate research assistantships that pay a monthly stipend and offer tuition remission are awarded to a few outstanding student applicants each year. Graduate students are expected to act as mentors to undergraduates, assisting those with an interest in energy to carry out laboratory studies, field work and other investigations for senior research projects or related studies. ERI research typically focuses on North Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado production areas, but it can be nationwide, and indeed, worldwide.

New Horizons Energy Conference

New Horizons Energy ConferenceERI hosts the New Horizons Energy Conference, bringing together industry, government agencies and graduate researchers to discuss advances in energy development. The conference is focused on regional energy issues in northern Rocky Mountain basins, but presentations on all energy-related topics are welcomed. We are seeking speakers on oil & gas, geothermal, and energy & environment. The 2018 New Horizons conference will be held October 25 and 26 in the Surbeck Center ballroom on the SD Mines campus in Rapid City, SD. A full day of technical presentations and student posters Is planned for Thursday, October 26, finishing with a panel discussion on energy policy followed by a reception at the Paleontology Research Laboratory. On Friday, October 25, two field trips will be offered, along with a one-day short course from the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council for those who need professional development units to maintain certifications. One field trip will view the stratigraphy and structure of the northern Black Hills, and the other will visit the 4,850 ft. level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in the old Homestake gold mine.

Information on abstract submittal and registration is at:

Registration and Call For Abstracts  

Abstracts are due by June 25, 2018, and early registration ends September 25, 2018.


Call For Abstracts (PDF)

History and mission

The Energy Resources Initiative (ERI) was created at SD Mines as a multidisciplinary effort to advance knowledge and better serve the upstream, midstream, and downstream oil and gas industry. SD Mines is centrally located in an energy-rich area of the country within 300 miles of the highly oil and gas-productive Williston, Denver and Powder River basins, and in recent years nearly 20 percent of SD Mines graduates have pursued careers in the oil and gas industry. The mission of the ERI is threefold: 1) to provide the oil and gas industry with relevant scientific and engineering research to help address resource assessments, materials engineering, recovery efficiency, and environmental problems related to the development of oil and gas, 2) engage SD Mines students in this research to provide exposure to fossil fuel and other energy resources as a potential career field while gaining experience solving practical problems of interest to potential future employers, and 3) expand SD Mines energy research beyond the region into national and international projects, and also into related areas, such as high and low temperature geothermal energy, radioactive waste isolation, energy storage, carbon dioxide sequestration, and environmental monitoring.


In 2012, ERI began a study to assess the development of natural gas from the Niobrara Formation on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. The study engaged tribal students from Sinte Gleska University, undergraduate and graduate students from SD Mines, and post-graduates from the Department of Energy. The study concluded that there is a reasonable prospect for natural gas development in this location, with the benefits to the tribe to include tribal education, resource assessment and possible access to inexpensive energy. Benefits to SD Mines included realistic problem-solving exercises for students and the benefits to the DOE include access to shale gas production and environmental monitoring data for the Onshore Unconventional research portfolio. Other research activities in progress or under development include investigating the potential for geothermal and shallow natural gas to meet the secure energy needs of Ellsworth AFB, an assessment of new drilling and completion technologies to improve the efficiency of geothermal well installation, laboratory coreflood experiments to determine the volume of increased oil recovery from waterflood operations, development of an electronic groundwater methane sensor for environmental monitoring near shale gas wells, and poroelastic modeling of subsurface stress changes and potential seismic triggers from underground injection of oil & gas wastewater.

Vision and goals

Oil and gas production is essentially an empirical activity, where successful operators know what works, but they often don’t know why it works. Engaging students to participate with faculty members in hands-on projects to solve some of these research issues provides the students with an opportunity to better understand the practical, day-to-day concerns faced by industry. Such work on “real world” problems gives students experience that enables them to become more marketable as potential job candidates. Increased communication on energy-related topics within and across departments on campus will build collaboration that strengthens the results. The ERI also seeks to improve interaction with the greater scientific community outside of the university, and with the public. National and international ERI projects support the vision of the university to consider the entire world as a laboratory, and go wherever the situation demands to collect data or observations. New technologies to improve the recovery efficiencies of tight oil and shale gas are being eagerly awaited by the rest of the world. It is important to remember that the shale gas research begun in the early 1980s did not lead to significant shale gas production until after the turn of the millennium. To be successful, the ERI needs both short-term and long-term vision.

SD Mines students visit Bakken Shale frack

SD Mines students visit Bakken Shale frack location with Halliburton in 2017, Williston, ND

Petroleum geology field camp discussion

Petroleum geology field camp discussion in 2017 of structures visible in Alcova Reservoir, WY

DOE intern on an outcrop

DOE intern on an outcrop of Utica Shale, 2013, Canajoharie, NY

Viewing geologic structure

Viewing geologic structure on Teapot Dome, WY

Viewing the geology on Alcova Reservoir

Viewing the geology in 2017 on Alcova Reservoir, WY 

All photographs by Dan Soeder

Dan Soeder Director

Daniel J. Soeder is the Energy Resources Initiative director at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

PhD student Scyller Borglum

PhD student Scyller Borglum in 2016 on the Marcellus Shale, Oatka Creek, NY

Dr. Foster Sawyer with grad students and DOE interns

Dr. Foster Sawyer with grad students and DOE interns on an outcrop of Pierre Shale, 2014, Oglala Lakota County, SD

Triple drill rig in the Bakken Shale

Triple drill rig in the Bakken Shale, 2017, Mountrail Co., ND

All photographs by Dan Soeder