Clouds of dust carried by prairie winds can impact everything from soil to crops, animals, humans and the environment. A team at NDSU is combing through proposals from NDSU researchers to help develop solutions focused on road dust issues stemming from oil and gas development in the Bakken region in western North Dakota. NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani has made available $350,000 in potential research funding for NDSU researchers.
“Economic successes of the area have led to increased traffic and associated road dust that have created impacts that are not yet fully known. The research funded under NDSU’s Road Dust Program will help quantify and qualify impacts and create solutions to help alleviate dust issues,” said Bresciani. “As a land-grant institution, we strive to engage in activities such as this one to benefit the state and its citizens. Such research programs also present opportunities for students who can see the impact that they can make by being involved in research, using their skills in real world applications that can ultimately benefit communities.”
NDSU faculty had until July 21 to apply for the program, which offers research seed funds. Under criteria, the proposed research must: quantify and/or qualify road dust emissions; evaluate agricultural health impacts (crops, livestock and rangeland) from road dust; evaluate ecological impacts from road dust; and develop techniques or technologies to control road dust emissions.
North Dakota oil production surpassed more than 1 million barrels per day in June 2014, making the state’s oil production second only to Texas. There are more than 10,600 wells in production in North Dakota with the potential for thousands of additional wells to be developed. Oil produced in North Dakota represents more than 12 percent of all oil produced in the U.S. Increased truck traffic from energy development activity and accompanying economic growth can result in higher road dust emissions. NDSU’s road dust research program serves to augment the excellent work conducted by other entities, providing additional information and potential solutions.
“Research can measure the amount of dust emitted from road traffic, quantify the types of road dust emitted, evaluate the impacts dust has on agriculture, humans and the ecosystem, and develop strategies that help mitigate road dust emissions,” said Kelly A. Rusch, vice president for research and creative activity at NDSU. The research projects ultimately selected must be completed in no more than two years. “The goal is to provide quantifiable information and most importantly, provide the information to citizens, state and community leaders who can use such data for strategic planning and dust remediation,” said Rusch.
NDSU’s Office of Research and Creative Activity is assembling a panel of external and internal members to review the proposals for potential research funding. It is anticipated that the review process will be completed by late August, with awards beginning approximately Sept. 1, 2014.
Initial applications for funding represent research spread across many disciplines at NDSU, including: soil science, animal science, natural resource management, engineering, transportation, pharmaceutical science, geosciences, computer science, plant science, sociology and others. Upon final selection, grants to be awarded will range from up to $15,000 for individual research projects and up to $60,000 for multidisciplinary teams of researchers.
Prior to the road dust research program, NDSU faculty and student researchers have been engaged in providing data and information to assist community leaders in western North Dakota and others affected by the state’s burgeoning energy sector. Researchers at NDSU have evaluated workforce characteristics in the Bakken, assisted cities with population projections to plan for the future, and compiled data on jobs and investment. Faculty also conduct research to assist law enforcement and community leaders as they work to match enforcement needs to population changes in western North Dakota.
Other NDSU scientists analyze North Dakota clay samples to determine composition and suitability for processes used in oil extraction. Additional scientists offer expertise in sensors that can monitor equipment and provide expertise in corrosion that can lead to pipeline degradation. NDSU representatives, including the Extension Service, are among those participating to find answers to challenges of an economic boom. NDSU faculty researchers in natural resources are evaluating native grassland reclamation methods to reestablish native vegetation and restore landscape in partnership with a pipeline company. Additional NDSU researchers will be studying groundwater in the Bakken region.
“Land-grant universities and our research partners can play integral roles in solving 21st century challenges in the state we serve,” said Bresciani.
NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.