The Honorable Charles McConnell Receives 2019 Pioneer Award

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The Honorable Charles McConnell, Executive Director for Carbon Management and Energy Sustainability at the University of Houston (UH), is the 2019 Pioneer Award recipient.

The award was presented as part of the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) annual meeting, held at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) in Grand Forks. The Pioneer Award honors outstanding service to carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). Nine of the 24 previous Pioneer Award recipients were in attendance as McConnell received the award. 

“It is an honor and privilege to work with the EERC and the Partnership and participate as a member of the EERC Foundation Board of Directors. The recognized accomplishments in CCUS by the partnership are leading the market in the United States and for the world and have been a large part of my professional and personal career in energy. To be recognized as this year’s Pioneer Award winner is gratifying and humbling, and my only hope is to contribute further to the transformative progress led by my colleagues and friends here.” 

Charles McConnell

Prior to joining UH Energy, McConnell was Executive Director of the Energy and Environment Initiative at Rice University. He served as Assistant Secretary of Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from 2011 to 2013. McConnell also previously served as Vice President of Carbon Management at Battelle Energy Technology in Columbus, Ohio, and with Praxair, Inc., as the Global VP of Energy and Hydrogen. He is currently a board member of the EERC Foundation, is a member of the National Coal Council, has served on the Society of Petroleum Engineers and National Petroleum Council subcommittees, and has held a number of board positions, including chairmanships of the Gasification & Syngas Technologies Council and the Clean Carbon Technology Foundation of Texas. 

The PCOR Partnership is led by the EERC at the University of North Dakota. Since 2003, the program has worked with over 120 public and private stakeholders to address carbon dioxide management as a viable solution to national energy and environmental concerns. 

A panel of industry CEOs provided the highlight for the 2019 annual meeting by conveying the sense of excitement that CCUS technology is generating in the PCOR Partnership region and beyond, as recent U.S. tax legislation has created a sense of urgency in driving forward the business case for CCUS projects. Chaired by McConnell, the panel included Wade Boeshans of BNI Energy, Chris Kendall of Denbury, John Minge of BP America, Mac McLennan of Minnkota Power Cooperative, and Paul Sukut of Basin Electric Power Cooperative. The annual meeting also featured presentations regarding recent PCOR Partnership accomplishments and other key CCUS projects. The Honorable Angelos Kokkinos, DOE, shared information on the DOE Fossil Energy Program. Kate Ryan discussed Denbury’s pioneering work in carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery, and attendees heard about various CCUS developments from Brent Sheets from the University of Alaska, Scott Quillinan with the University of Wyoming, David Greeson from the Proven Project Development Group, and Wes Peck from the EERC. 

For more information about the PCOR Partnership, visit

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