UND, Norwegian education and research organizations tout shared heritage and common energy interests as key reasons for two new partnerships


David L. Dodds

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Engineering & Mines


With a foundation built on cultural and environmental similarities between North Dakota and Norway already in place, the University of North Dakota on Monday took its relationships with two Norwegian energy educational and research organizations to the next level.

New partnerships were solidified with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between UND and the Petroleum Research School of Norway (NFiP) and a separate one with the University of Bergen (UiB) in Bergen, Norway. The agreements call for faculty, research scholar and student exchanges between UND and the Norwegian entities, as well as collaborative research in petroleum and energy fields and other related opportunities for students and faculty from both countries to study and research abroad.

The MOU with NFiP allows UND to join an elite consortium of international universities and organizations that are dedicated to energy research and education.

Norway has long been a global hotbed for oil and gas exploration, and has a robust international research network focused on energy studies. Likewise, North Dakota has a history of harvesting energy, especially in the oil fields and coal mines in the central and western parts of the state. Recently, the oil-and-gas-rich Bakken Formation centered on Watford City, N.D., has surged thanks to new technologies in the industry. Today, the Bakken Formation yields enough crude to place North Dakota second among oil-and-gas-producing states behind only Texas.

UND's College of Engineering and Mines seized the opportunity of a resurging energy industry in North Dakota by launching a Department of Petroleum Engineering in 2010 and the Institute for Energy Studies. The new Petroleum Engineering Department has grown from seven students at its inception to more than 200 today. The growth has fueled the need for a new energy studies headquarters on campus with state-of-art educational and research capabilities. Fundraising is well on its way for the UND College of Engineering and Mines to build the proposed Collaborative Energy Complex to meet the demand.

The commonalities between what's going on in Norway and North Dakota were factored in to the development of the new partnerships. UND and Norwegian officials, which included Jostein Mykletun, consul general for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Torgeir Knutsen, with the Norwegian Ministray of Petroleum & Energy; and Bruce Tocher, a manager with Statoil, Norway's giant state-owned oil company; also cited North Dakota's common cultural and ancestral histories, as a bonus that can only help the partnerships succeed.

Exciting opportunities

Arne Graue, a professor in the Department of Physics and Technology at UiB, added that energy students from Norway can learn a lot from the differences in energy exploration in North Dakota compared to Norway, and UND students will be introduced to different techniques and research opportunities in Norway.

"I think it's important for these young energy students to be exposed to that," Grau said.

The agreement with UiB is the second MOU that UND has signed with that university in less than a year. In March, the UND College of Engineering and Mines signed an agreement with the Faculty of Social Sciences at UiB. That agreement also centered on student and faculty exchanges and research collaboration using the "system-dynamics" research approach. This important field of study is used to address challenges associated with complex economic, social and environmental systems such as those involved with energy development.

The new agreement with the UiB expands on the first one by making it a University-to-University pact, whereby students and faculty throughout each school will be able to participate in joint research, exchanges and study abroad opportunities.

Other UND divisions, such as the School of Law and School of Medicine and Health Sciences, already have long established student and faculty exchange programs with Norway for education and research. Also, various UND departments are involved with the American College of Norway, which sends UND students and faculty abroad each year to study in Moss, Norway. A number of Norwegian students from the American College of Norway have come to UND, as well.

UND Provost Thomas DiLorenzo said, on top of a research opportunity and an education in energy studies, UND and Norwegian students will gain other valuable lessons through the new agreements.

"There's no experience that is more transformational than when students get the opportunity to study abroad," he said.

Hesham El-Rewini, dean of the UND College of Engineering and Mines, echoed many of the themes that others mentioned why the agreements with Norway make sense for his college and for UND. He cited theshared heritage of the North Dakota and Norway and the common interest in responsible energy exploration, education and research.

El-Rewini said he was excited by the prospects of more research collaborations, the chance to host Norwegian students and scholars and the opportunity of UND students to gain international expericens.

"I am so excited by the potential of these agreements," he said. "This helps us move to the next level."

Follow-up visit

Also during their visit to UND, the Norwegian energy delegation met with key UND administrators, college deans, department heads and faculty members. They also toured the UND-based Wilson M. Laird Core & Sample Library, an important resource for oil and gas companies drilling in North Dakota

The visit is a follow-up to another Norwegian delegation, headed by Ola Borten Moe, Norway's minister of Petroleum and Energy, that came to UND last year to discuss the future of oil and gas and the Norwegian perspective. Oil and gas were discovered on the Norwegian Continental Shelf more than 40 years ago. Offshore oil and gas resources have benefited Norwegian society, making it possible to create the largest pension fund in the world of more than $600 billion for a country of five million citizens.

The petroleum industry is Norway's largest, employing about 200,000 people. Recently several large discoveries have been made on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. The oil industry is now moving north – a development which holds great potential and creates considerable excitement and some controversy. Norway is the second-largest net exporter of gas and is the seventh-largest exporter of oil in the world.

Two years ago, Statoil came to North Dakota with the strategic acquisition of Brigham Exploration for $4.4 billion thus becoming a major oil company in North Dakota.