Shale Research Initiative launched by SD School of Mines, RESPEC

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The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and industry partner RESPEC announced today the launch of the Shale Research Initiative funded by the State of South Dakota in the recently concluded legislative session. Initial work will assess the feasibility of what would be the nation’s first underground shale research laboratory.

The Shale Research Initiative will focus on a range of experiments important to energy and the environment including enhanced energy production, carbon dioxide sequestration, underground hydrocarbon storage and waste disposal in shale.

The School of Mines, located in western South Dakota, is equidistant from the Bakken, Mowry and Niobrara shale plays in the upper Midwest.

“The School of Mines has expertise in underground engineering and geology as well as energy and the environment. South Dakota is making a major investment in shale research. Working with RESPEC as our industrial partner, we will work to expand the research we are doing in this field for both government and private sector sponsors,” said Heather Wilson, president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

The South Dakota Legislature recently approved $464,000 for continued study of shale behavior and the feasibility of constructing an underground laboratory. Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, who led the effort to fund the program, said, “South Dakota is uniquely positioned to advance research in this area that is very important to the energy industry and the nation.”

The newly established state effort will fund drilling and sampling of various shale units, conducting advanced laboratory testing of shale, and performing geo-mechanical analyses to investigate initial design concepts for an underground shale laboratory.

In 2012, the School of Mines and RESPEC conducted initial shale research funded by the Department of Energy through Sandia National Lab. The School of Mines and RESPEC will continue jointly to pursue additional federally sponsored research in this area to leverage the state investment.

Lance Roberts, RESPEC senior vice president, said, “There is a lot of science to be done on the characterization of shale and its potential for storage of hydrocarbons, enhanced oil recovery, and safe disposal of waste in very deep repositories. Our partnership with the School of Mines helps position South Dakota as a leader in the science of deep underground storage and disposal in shale, and we look forward to continued work in the future.”

The shale project is being led by William Roggenthen, Ph.D., Mines research scientist, and Roberts, Ph.D. RESPEC is a Rapid City-based national engineering consulting firm founded in 1969 by School of Mines faculty members. The company employs more than 200 people and specializes in the mining and energy, water and natural resources, and information technologies.



Fran LeFort

Communications Manager

(605) 394-6082

About SDSM&T

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is $62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at