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 energy, 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.  The exact focus areas depend on current project support and funding, but studies are typically in areas related to oil and gas, geothermal, and energy and the environment.  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.  

Petroleum Systems Minor/Certificate

The petroleum industry employs a variety of engineering and scientific disciplines in a wide range of areas including exploration, production, transmission, refining, product development, and environmental monitoring.  This interdisciplinary minor is available to any student on campus interested in expanding their portfolio of coursework to include content relevant to the fossil energy sector.  Science and engineering majors may pursue a Minor in Petroleum Systems by completing eighteen (18) credit hours of courses.  A minimum of six credits must be for courses outside of those that are required or elective in their major.  Required courses include GEOE 412 Science and Engineering Field Applications (Petroleum Field Camp), GEOE 461 Petroleum Drilling and Production Engineering, and either CBE 218 Chemical Engineering Fluid Mechanics or ME 331 Thermo Fluid Dynamics.  Nine credits of elective courses can be selected from CBE 217 Chemical Engineering Material Balances, CBE 222 Chemical Engineering Process Thermodynamics, CBE 321 Chemical Engineering Equilibrium Thermodynamics, CBE 417 Chemical Engineering Equilibrium Separations, CBE 444/544 Reactor Design, CBE/MET 445/545 Oxidation and Corrosion of Metals, CBE 482 Upstream Oil and Gas Processing, CBE 483 Petroleum Refining, CBE 485/585 Renewable and Sustainable Energy, CBE 485L/585L Renewable and Sustainable Energy Lab, CEE 326 Environmental Engineering I, CEE 428 Oil and Gas Development and the Environment, GEOE 324/324L Engineering Geophysics I Lab, GEOL 476/576 Petroleum Geology, ME 269/269L Energy Systems Production Development/Design, ME 402/502 Gas Dynamics, and ME 492 Topics (Sustainable Energy section only).  For more information on the program, please contact Dr. Laurie Anderson, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, MI-303, (605) 394-2461, E-mail:

Viewing geologic structure

Petroleum geology field camp visiting Teapot Dome, Wyoming

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.

ERI Shale Map

Shale gas and tight oil plays in the western United States with respect to the location of SD Mines in Rapid City, SD (base map from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

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-graduate interns from the U.S. 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.  (Soeder, D. J., Wonnell, C. S., Cross-Najafi, I., Marzolf, K., Freye, A., and Sawyer, J. F., 2017, Assessment of Gas Potential in the Niobrara Formation, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota: NETL-TRS-1-2017; NETL Technical Report Series, U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory: Morgantown, WV, 2017,  152 p.)

ECI with Pierre Shale

Exploring the contact between the Niobrara Formation and the overlying Pierre Shale.

Research activities in progress or under development in the ERI are summarized below:

  • Potential for direct-use geothermal energy and shallow natural gas to meet the secure energy needs of Ellsworth AFB in cooperation with DOE-NETL.
  • Potential for geothermal energy to heat a community greenhouse and resilient emergency shelters on the Pine Ridge Reservation in cooperation with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE).
  • An assessment of new drilling and completion technologies to improve the efficiency of geothermal well installation in cooperation with Colorado School of Mines.
  • Development and field testing of an electronic groundwater methane sensor for environmental monitoring near shale gas wells.
  • Acquisition of a focused ion beam scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) through the National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation program in cooperation with the Engineering and Mining Experiment Station (EMES), Department of Geology & Geological Engineering (GGE), Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering (MME), and the Nanoscience and Nanoengineering Program.
  • Acquisition of precision permeability and other petrophysical lab equipment for shale core analysis through the National Science Foundation Earth Sciences Instrumentation and Facilities Program.
  • Assembly of an industry coalition to fund construction of an electronic and mechanical drilling simulator on the campus of SD Mines for both company training and student use.
  • An investigation of shallow petroleum potential in the Pierre Shale.
  • Poroelastic modeling of subsurface stress changes and potential seismic triggers from underground injection of oil & gas wastewater for the U.S. Geological Survey.

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.   

SD Mines students visit Bakken Shale frack

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

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 classroom, 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.

ERI Bakken Shale

Bakken Shale production pad with gas flare, 2017, Dunn County, ND

ERI Pierre Shale

Pierre Shale outcrop, 2018, Redbird, WY


Updated 1/23/19 DJS All photographs by Dan Soeder


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