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Burgum signs bill allocating up to $5M per biennium to energy research

The North Dakota State Capitol. Forum News Service file photo

GRAND FORKS — Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill Tuesday, April 23, that will give exploratory research dollars to the Energy and Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks.

Senate Bill 2249, introduced by Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, creates a state energy research fund that would dedicate dollars for exploratory research at EERC, which is located at the University of North Dakota.

The bill puts 1% of oil and gas gross production tax and oil extraction tax revenues into the state energy research center fund every month — up to $5 million per biennium.

Burgum signed the bill Tuesday evening.

The bill passed the Senate in February with a 46-0 vote. At that time, the bill included up to $6 million in funding per biennium and would have reserved 2% of oil and gas production-related revenues.

The bill was later amended to reduce the funding and passed the North Dakota House last week by a vote of 78-12.

Tom Erickson, head of the EERC, said the center has received fewer federal dollars allowing for exploratory research or early stage projects.

“We’re very appreciative of the state of North Dakota in their support of us,” he said. “...We plan to look for new, exploratory, transformational, innovative ideas that will enhance the current energy structure of the state of North Dakota, on both the industry and state side of things.”

Erickson said the EERC used to receive a significant amount of earmarks from the federal government that would give the center flexibility on how to use the dollars. Today, the center still has access to federal funds, but the funding is tied almost exclusively to applied research or research that is tied much closer to the commercial marketplace, Erickson said.

Some types of early stage projects the money could support include creating new materials from coal or extracting rare earth elements from coal, Erickson said.

Another project could include converting wind to commodity chemicals, he said. Researchers can use wind electrons to reverse chemical reactions that can help produce chemicals like fertilizers.

Other projects could include finding new techniques to help increase oil production in North Dakota.

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