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Centers of Excellence

The Beginning

The EERC was officially founded in 1951 as the Robertson Lignite Research Laboratory, a federal facility under the U.S. Bureau of Mines. However, the EERC's roots date back to the 1890s when Earl Babcock, a chemistry professor at the University of North Dakota (UND), began studying the state's vast lignite coal resources and investigating potential uses for them.

The work of Babcock and others at UND led to the establishment of a Bureau of Mines laboratory at the university and, in 1951, to the facility that is today the EERC. The Center became a federal energy technology center under the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 1977 and was defederalized in 1983, at which time it became part of UND.

Since its defederalization, the EERC has evolved to conduct research on all fossil fuels, as well as renewable and alternative fuels, and has become a world leader in the field of pollution prevention and environmental cleanup technologies.

Time Line

  • 1951 – Founded as the U.S. Bureau of Mines Robertson Lignite Research Laboratory.
  • 1977 – Became a federal energy technology center under DOE.
  • 1983 – Defederalized and became the University of North Dakota Energy Research Center.
  • 1987 – All research entities within the UND School of Engineering and Mines are combined into one entity called the Energy & Mineral Research Center.
  • 1989 – Renamed the UND Energy & Environmental Research Center.
  • 1992 – EERC moved under the UND President; EERC Foundation® established
  • 1994 – $7.6 million expansion of labs and pilot plant facilities completed.
  • 1997 – April flooding of the Red River forced the EERC to close for 20 days; EERC flood damages estimated at $40 million to $45 million in lost equipment and business.
  • 1998 – EERC laboratories damaged in flood became fully operational.
  • 1999 – Annual contract awards exceeded $11 million.
  • 2000 – Annual contract awards exceeded $15 million.
  • 2001 – Celebrated 50 years of innovative energy and environmental research.
  • 2002 – Broke ground on $8 million expansion and renovation.
  • 2003 – 47,000-square-foot expansion and renovation project opened.
  • 2004 – Contract awards exceeded $26.5 million.
  • 2005 – Contract awards totaled $29 million.
  • 2006 – Contract awards exceeded $45 million. Broke ground for new 15,000-square-foot hydrogen facility.
  • 2007 – Proposal number exceeds 300, valued at over $138 million.
  • 2008 – Contract awards exceeded $95 million. Hydrogen facility dedicated.
  • 2009 – EERC achieved sixth consecutive record year. Contract portfolio exceeded $236 million.
  • 2010 – EERC achieved seventh record year in contract funding.
  • 2011 – Broke ground on Fuels of the Future facility.
  • 2012 – EERC and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Inc., commission dry-solids pump.
  • 2013 – EERC Bakken regional drilling activity map distributed to more than ten thousand worldwide.
  • 2014 – UND names Tom Erickson Director.