Fueling the future by investing in the present; North Dakota Energy Conference highlights current and future opportunities

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford speaking at the 2019 North Dakota Energy Conference and Expo on the future that North Dakota holds in the energy producing industry. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Energy executives, service providers, investors, developers, product vendors and decision makers embarked Wednesday, Nov. 13, on a two-day event highlighting the opportunities in the vast energy resources of North Dakota.

Speaking at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks to various energy entities, North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford provided insight on North Dakota’s opportunities for new technology, new forms of energy production and the state’s vision for an all-inclusive, opportunistic energy strategy.

“It's a blessing every day that we get to go to work and try to plot the future of North Dakota,” Sanford said. “This group of people in this state are proactive and we are so proud to have such a lead of energy strategies and we are truly leading in the nation when it comes to collaboration in our industries.”

Addressing in-state and federal level project leaders, technology providers, researchers and other high-level energy experts, Sanford praised North Dakota’s near and long-term opportunities and successes.

“This is an area, for the state, where I enjoy having a conversation to help encourage more development,” Sanford said. “As the nation's number two oil producing state, North Dakota has played a major role in our country becoming a top oil exporter. If you come from a global … perspective, this has been a game changer.”


The event featured eight focused keynote sessions, each covering aspects of the North Dakota energy industry. Of the more than 40 speakers, representatives from ExxonMobil, ICM Inc., North Dakota Public Service Commission, AFGlobal, Astec Inc., Barr Engineering, Dakota Solar Energy, Minnkota Power Cooperative were present.

Sectors covered weren’t limited to oil production in the Bakken, rather it featured a wide spectrum of budding energy sectors moving into the state, including biofuels, wind, geothermal, solar, carbon capture, electricity, and more.

Among the most attended sessions on the first day, those focused on the unveiling of the newest technologies stood head-and-shoulders above the rest. From flare-powered data centers and small-scale solar options to geothermal options, frac sand handling and biorefinery upgrades, the latest and greatest in the energy sector were on display.

Before kicking off the conference, an industry insider tour was provided allowing attendees to witness first-hand the impressiveness of Minnkota Power Cooperative’s headquarters in Grand Forks. The tour featured a behind the scenes look at the 252,000 square-foot headquarters and operations center. The center’s construction was completed in December 2017 and provides the company with the ability to control Minnkota Power Cooperative’s massive electric generation and transmission operations using the latest in technological advances.

Closing the day’s events, evening sessions featuring topics ranging in subject matter from why small utilities could be the future of energy efficiency in North Dakota to nuclear energy production options.

“There are exciting opportunities that lie ahead for energy production in North Dakota,” Sanford said. “It's helpful to stop and reflect on how far we've come as an energy producing state and what amazing position we find ourselves in today….”

Lt. Governor Brent Sanford on the main stage of the 2019 North Dakota Energy Conference and Expo. Photo by Josiah C. Cuellar // The Dickinson Press

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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