On April 22, 2014, a One Hitachi team consisting of researchers, business executives, and technologists met with the staff at the Engineering and Environment Research Center (EERC) in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The EERC is a market-driven, business-oriented research laboratory loosely associated with the University of North Dakota that collaborates with commercial companies, government, and universities to develop new energy and environmental technologies and strategies for applications including:
- Shale oil and gas exploration, development, and production,
- Clean coal (EERC is the world leader in this area),
- Climate change, carbon capture, utilization (including enhanced oil recovery) and, Storage (EERC is a global leader in this area),
- Critical water conservation and contamination issues,
- Energy, conservation, ecosystem and environmental strategies.
Given the EERC's broad portfolio in technologies are of great interest to One Hitachi, the goal of the visiting team was to learn more about the EERC while presenting on-going collaborative work in big data for shale oil and gas development. This funded, collaborative work has been sponsored by Umesh Dayal and Ravi Vennelakanti in Hitachi's Big Data Laboratory with support from Matthew O'Keefe and Ken Wood in the Global Office of Technology and Planning.
The visit began with an introduction to the EERC from its Director, Dr. Gerry Groenewald, to the EERC and its culture. Dr. Groenewald emphasized that its entrepreneurial culture combined with its emphasis on relationships and working partnerships with businesses is critical to the EERC's success. We noted that the EERC's relationship-driven approach to doing business is similar to the culture of business in Japan.
Over the coarse of the day, EERC staff alternated with Hitachi staff in presenting current ongoing work of joint interest, including:
- John Harju, Associate Director for Research, described EERC's work in leading the Bakken Production Optimization Program, a consortium of E&P companies, Hitachi, and the State of North Dakota focused on increased oil production, gas flaring and waste reduction, waste management, water reuse and water treatment problems specific to the Bakken shale oil field,
- Hitachi's global research and development efforts were described by Norihiro Suzuki, Hitachi America, Ltd., Sr. Vice President & CTO,
- Umesh Dayal, VP, Big Data Research Laboratory, Hitachi America, Ltd., described how big data analytics is driving the One Hitachi strategy in creating more IT + OT convergence across its product lines,
- From the EERC, Mike Holmes, Associate Director for Research, and Ed Steadman, Deputy Associate Director for Research outlined work in CO2 capture from clean coal facilities, its processing, sequestration, and potential use in enhanced oil recovery,
- Ravi Vennelakanti, Senior Director, Big Data Research Laboratory, Hitachi America, Ltd., and Ken Wood Director of Technical Incubation and Evaluation, presented ongoing works in shale oil analytics at Hitachi using datasets provided by the EERC,
- Scott Nacey Senior Director in Business Incubation, built on Suzuki-san's presentation in describing how Hitachi is building processes around incubating promising new technologies and then bringing them to market.
During the middle of the day, the Hitachi visitors were given a tour of EERC's extensive laboratory facilities, including its combustion facilities for testing various fuels (coals, solid waste, biological fuels like algae, etc.) and
recovering CO2 and other chemicals from the combustion process; geological test facilities that test rock properties and simulate processes associated with oil and gas recovery such as proppant injection; hydrogen technology lab; and a CO2 lab for better understanding CO2 properties in shale oil environments and its use for enhanced oil recovery from shale. The One Hitachi visitors discovered that we all looked pretty good in hard hats and safety glasses, as the pictures taken during the tour show.
After the meetings the EERC presented the Hitachi attendees with gifts including a bison carved out of North Dakota lignite. The One Hitachi team later returned the favor by presenting the book "Travels in the Interior of North America" to Dr. Gerry Groenewald.