Energy Resources Initiative

Who we are 

Dan Soeder, Director

Daniel J. Soeder is the inaugural 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 government research scientist, hydrologist and geologist with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, WV, and the U.S. Geological Survey in the Mid-Atlantic region in Baltimore, MD and at Yucca Mountain, NV.  He has an additional decade of experience with shale and other unconventional gas resource investigations at the Gas Technology Institute in Chicago, IL.  His research encompasses shale gas, tight oil, water resources, groundwater contamination, nuclear waste isolation, and the geological sequestration of carbon dioxide. 

Contact:; 605-394-2802

Recent publications:

Soeder, Daniel J., 2017, Unconventional: The Development of Natural Gas from the Marcellus Shale: GSA Special Paper 527, Geological Society of America Books, Boulder, Colorado, 143 pages.

Harris, A. E., Hopkinson, L. and Soeder, D.J., 2016, Developing monitoring plans to detect spills related to natural gas production: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment; 188 : 647; DOI 10.1007/s10661-016-5641-4

Levine, J.S., Fukai, I., Soeder, D.J., Bromhal G., Dilmore, R., Guthrie, G., Rodosta, T., Sanguinito, S., Frailey, S., Gorecki, C., Peck, W., and Goodman, A., 2016, U.S. DOE NETL methodology for estimating the prospective CO2 storage resource of shales at the national and regional scale: International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, V. 51, August 2016, P. 81–94.

Zhang, L. and Soeder, D. J., 2015, Modeling of methane migration in shallow aquifers from shale gas well drilling: Groundwater. doi: 10.1111/gwat.12361 

Soeder, D.J., 2015, Adventures in Groundwater Monitoring: Why has it been so difficult to obtain groundwater data near shale gas wells? Environmental Geosciences, V. 22, no. 04 (December 2015), p. 139–148.

Soeder, D.J., Sawyer, J.F., Freye, A. and Singh, S., 2015, Assessment of Hydrocarbon Potential in the Niobrara Formation, Rosebud Sioux Reservation, South Dakota, URTeC DOI 10.15530/urtec-2015-2153622; Proceedings of Unconventional Resources Technology Conference, San Antonio, Texas, USA, 20-22 July 2015, 13 p.

Soeder, D. J., Sharma, S., Pekney, N., Hopkinson, L., Dilmore, R., Kutchko, B., Stewart, B., Carter, K.,  Hakala, A., and Capo, R., 2014, An approach for assessing engineering risk from shale gas wells in the United States, International Journal of Coal Geology, Vol. 126, p. 4-19; Special Issue: Unconventional Natural Gas and the Environment, D. J. Soeder and M. A. Engle, eds., 170 p.  

Soeder, D.J., Enomoto, C.B., and Chermak, J.A., 2014, The Devonian Marcellus Shale and Millboro Shale, in Bailey, C.M., and Coiner, L.V., eds., Elevating Geoscience in the Southeastern United States: New Ideas about Old Terranes—Field Guides for the GSA Southeastern Section Meeting, Blacksburg, Virginia, 2014: Geological Society of America Field Guide 35, p. 129–160, doi:10.1130/2014.0035(05).


Scyller Borglum, Research Assistant

Scyller J. Borglum is a Ph.D. Candidate in geological engineering at SD Mines.  She holds a BA degree in business, and a BS and MS in petroleum engineering. She has two years of oilfield work experience along the Rocky Mountain Front and in North Dakota. She also has experience working in the private sector in the rock mechanics lab at RESPEC as well as the government-owned and operated lab at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, WV.  Her research interests include the geomechanics of tight rocks under hydraulic fracturing conditions, and potential effects this may have on petrophysical properties.


Recent publications:

Borglum, S. J., and Stetler, L. D., 2016, “Shale Poroelastic Behavior Determination by a Novel Tensile Strength Test,” SPE Russian Petroleum Technology Conference and Exhibition, Moscow, Russia, 24-26 Oct 2016; SPE 182024

Borglum, S. J., Reichhardt, D. K. and Todd, B. J., 2014, "Understanding Elm Coulee Bakken Production Variability with Discrete Fracture Networks," Discrete Fracture Network Engineering Conference, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 19-22 Oct 2014.

Schrader, S., Danielson, C., and Borglum, S., 2014, “Investigating the Connections Between Oil and Gas Industry Affiliation and Climate Change Concerns”: pp. 47-55 in Drake, J., Kontar, Y., and Rife, G., New Trends in Earth-Science Outreach and Engagement, Switzerland, Springer International Publishing, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-01821-8, 244 p.

Borglum, S., and Todd, B., 2012, “An Investigation of Ancient Geological Events and Localized Fracturing on Current Bakken Production Trends” SPE Eastern Regional Meeting, Lexington Kentucky, USA, 3-5 Oct 2012; SPE 161331

Borglum, S., 2011, Determining the Occurrence of Diagenesis in Proppants Commonly Used with in situ Hydraulic Fracturing: National Conference For Undergraduate Research, Proceedings

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 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.

SD Mines announced plans for the ERI in 2014, when the South Dakota Board of Regents approved a Petroleum Systems minor.  Fundraising efforts have since resulted in over $3 million in commitments from industry and alumni supporters. The Energy Resources Initiative builds upon the university’s existing faculty research expertise in enhanced recovery of hydrocarbons from fine-grained reservoirs, water resources research, and materials development. The State of South Dakota previously funded the university’s Shale Research Initiative, another element of the energy effort, in which faculty and students collaborated with RESPEC researchers to 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.

The mission of the ERI is threefold: 1) to provide the oil and gas industry, especially mid-size operators in the Rocky Mountains, 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.

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.  Many of the midsize companies operating in Rocky Mountain basins cannot support a research staff to study such issues.  This is where scientific and engineering research at an institution like SD Mines can make a difference, by investigating the underlying principles to better understand problems.  Learning how and why oil and gas can be produced efficiently from one particular resource may provide knowledge that can be applied to other resources.

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 is another goal of ERI.  Many professors in different disciplines are working independently on energy projects in areas where collaboration would significantly strengthen the results.  For example, a chemical engineer investigating a natural gas-to-liquids conversion technology could potentially find applications in a production area like the Bakken, where gas is being flared off because there are no pipelines to take it.  By collaborating with petroleum engineers, such a connection could allow a former waste stream (flared methane) to be turned into a marketable product (methanol) that can be removed by truck without the need for a pipeline.  The ERI also seeks to improve interaction with the greater scientific community outside of the university, and with the public.

Expanding the Energy Resource Initiative at SD Mines into national and international projects supports the vision of the university to consider the entire world as a laboratory, and go wherever the situation demands to collect data or observations.  Indeed, in the areas of shale gas and tight oil, development of these resources worldwide is of high international interest.  Many countries are hesitating until North American researchers achieve a deeper understanding of the environmental impacts of drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities.  Field laboratories where a broad range of monitoring technologies can be applied to shale wells are a critical component of this research.  New technologies to improve the recovery efficiencies of tight oil and shale gas are also being eagerly awaited by the rest of the world.

Outside of oil and gas, related areas of geological energy research include high and low temperature geothermal energy, radioactive waste isolation, energy storage, and carbon dioxide sequestration.  These tend to be longer-term programs with research that may not pay off for decades.  Nevertheless, 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.


EDUCATION - two tracks are offered:

-- Undergraduate Minor in Petroleum Systems

We offer an 18-credit program including 3 core courses: (Drilling and Production Engineering, Fluid Mechanics, and a Petroleum Field Course) with 9 credits of electives in chemical, civil, mechanical, and geological engineering and geology. The minor is available to students majoring in any subject on campus. ( Learn More)

-- Graduate Certificate in Petroleum Systems

We offer a 12-credit program of graduate-level course work in the geosciences in which both SD Mines graduate students and outside professionals can enroll. ( Learn More)


Much of the expertise to make the Energy Resources Initiative successful is already in place at SD Mines. Faculty across campus are pursuing relevant research projects in the following areas:

Oil and Gas

  • Enhanced Recovery of Hydrocarbons from Fine-Grained Reservoirs
  • Mechanical coupling of fine-grained media and pore fluids
  • Hydraulic fracturing simulations for predictive models of rheological characteristics
  • Identification of unconventional petroleum resources
  • Transport pathways of nutrients and microbes in organic substrates; effects of stimulation on fluid transport and bio-availability of organics
  • An assessment of hydrocarbon potential in the Niobrara Formation at the Rosebud Reservation to investigate the feasibility of developing shallow, stranded natural gas for local use. 

Water Resources

  • Water resource sustainability, recycling, and management.
  • Treatment and disposal of produced water and well fluids.
  • Potential use of South Dakota geothermal resources for local heating of greenhouses with beneficial use of recovered water.

Materials Development

  • Mineral processing for additives to drilling and circulation materials
  • Synthesis, fabrication, and testing of polymer and composite materials for drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and production applications
  • Development and processing of advanced alloys and alloy coatings for abrasive and corrosive environments
  • Advanced characterization of materials, including cements and ceramics

In Development

A few key components and events to advance our progress:

AS OF JULY 2017:

Initial equipment for a state-of-the-art Petrophysical Engineering Research Laboratory (PERL) is awaiting a decision on a funding match application with the SD Board of Regents.

Undergraduate scholarship support is available to attract and retain students in the petroleum systems minor.  Women, minorities and other under-represented groups are especially encouraged to apply.

The annual petroleum geology field camp is scheduled for July 10-26, 2017.  Students will experience classic geology at Teapot Dome and Alcova Reservoir, and visit active drilling rigs, hydraulic fracturing operations, and midstream processing facilities in the Williston Basin in North Dakota.

A field trip is planned over Native American Day weekend October 7-9 to introduce members of the Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) organization at SD Mines to the Bakken Shale production in North Dakota.

Stipends for graduate students are available depending on department priorities and external funding.

SD Mines is partnering with the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation to develop an environmental research site in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.  The proposed design for this facility will be presented in a paper at the Energy7 Conference in Manchester, UK in August 2017.

Results from the Niobrara stranded gas development project on the Rosebud Reservation will be presented at the AAPG ICE meeting in London, UK in October 2017.

The ERI at SD Mines is leading the development of a project to investigate the assessment, production and utilization of local geologic energy resources for isolated, small communities in South Dakota, many of whom are currently dependent on energy supplies being brought in from great distances.

Dan Soeder and Scyller Borglum have been invited by Elsevier Publishing to co-author a textbook on unconventional oil and gas resources.  The preliminary title is “Shale gas, tight oil, and the fossil energy revolution.” 

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