Tales from the Oil Patch: Part 5

 Photo: Larrie Wanberg UND Provost signing with Geir Anton Johansen, Professor and Head of the Department of Physics and Technology at the University of Bergen.

Photo: Larrie Wanberg
UND Provost signing with Geir Anton Johansen, Professor and Head of the Department of
Physics and Technology at the University of Bergen.

By Larrie Wanberg

Feature Editor

Forty Norwegian educators, researchers and scientists toured North Dakota (N.D.) last week, with visits to university settings, interacting with oil companies and rigs in the oil patch, with community leaders and finally with State agencies in Bismarck.

On Monday at Grand Forks, Memoranda of Agreements (MOA) were signed between the University of North Dakota (UND) and two Norwegian research centers. The first MOA creates “research exchange” programs with the UND College of Engineering and Mines and the Petroleum Research School of Norway. The second MOA develops a student exchanges between the University of Bergen and UND.

For a full day, the tour members engaged with students, faculty and administrators for a comprehensive overview of UND resources and the strong tie of ND universities to the growth of oil development across the State.

Poster tours and demonstrations included such topics as Geothermal Energy, Fuel Conversion, Carbon Dioxide Capture, Gas Flaring Reduction, Coal Gasification, the Impact of the Oil Boom on Human Service Systems, and a tour of the Energy & Environmental Research Center.

As part of their tours of the day, the group visited the Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection at UND Chester Fritz Library in Special Collections, where they received a broader perspective of energy development.

“We are developing, perhaps, an ‘alternative energy,’” said Library Director Wilber Stolt, “an energy that comes from knowing people, understanding cultures and heritage … and will differentiate our work together.”

Founder of the collection and retired UND chair of the Language Department, Arne Brekke outlined the history of the Bygdebok Collection that has developed over 30 years into the largest and most accessible collection of over 1400 volumes of Norwegian local family farm histories and genealogies.

“All of ‘Norway’ for as far back as records go is under one roof,” he said. “With Internet access, Norwegians in Norway often search the collection online to learn what is available to them in Norway.” He added, ”Then, of course, there are those estimated 50 million Americans with one or more Norwegian ancestors … some of whom want to be in touch with their Norwegian roots.”

The Great Plains Institute organized the five-day tour, captioned “Fostering Cooperation in Building the Energy Economy of the Future.” The event was a follow-on to Norway’s hosting a North Dakota delegation in 2012 to learn firsthand about North Sea Oil Exploration.

Other visits at research centers included the North Dakota State University in Fargo with its Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering and another day at Bismarck State College’s National Energy Center of Excellence.

A two-day loop through the through the Bakken Oil Field provided the delegation with “up-close and personalized” technology-stops to see and hear about “ecopads,” ‘frac’ sand transport, propane ‘transloading,’ rail loading facilities, flaring, hydraulic fracturing and tour Dakota Gasification, the world’s largest coal-based CO2 capture and compression operation.

Along the way, historic and cultural visits were mixed in, such as Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead (a museum of a replica Viking ship that sailed crossed the Atlantic), the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Watford City, and the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center at Washburn.

The last day concluded with meetings of State leaders, officials and policy-makers in Bismarck. Lynn Holms, Director of N.D. Department of Mineral Resources, highlighted an overview of N.D.’s great opportunities and many challenges as the group began debriefing a full week’s menu of information sharing and hospitality. The hospitality continued into the evening with a dinner hosted by N.D.’s Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem at his home.

N.D. has catapulted into second position as an oil producing state, delivering 800,000 barrels a day into the world market, creating an economic boom and a social-cultural bridging across continents from a state of only 700,000 people.

N.D. is becoming a center of oil development, alternative energies and place-name resources for tracing the roots of all those Norwegian names that one encounters on nametags.

This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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Larrie Wanberg

Larrie Wanberg, 1920–2021, contributed features to The Norwegian American for many years, drawing on eight decades of life experience highlighted by three career recognitions: as a researcher through a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway in 1957; as a health care provider in behavioral science through a 27-year military career and awarded upon retirement in 1981 the highest non-combat medal, the Legion of Merit medal; as an educator, through a 50-year career in college education, culminating in the 2010 Public Scholar award at the UND Center for Community Engagement. Wanberg passed away in May, 2021.