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Oil billionaire Hamm gives $10 million to UND for geology school

Harold Hamm

GRAND FORKS - One of the Bakken's biggest players is funding a new geology school at UND's College of Engineering and Mines with a gift that will cover new equipment, faculty pay, student scholarships and a virtual library, the university announced Monday.

Harold Hamm, an oil billionaire who has been a lead player in drilling the Bakken shale, and his Oklahoma-based Continental Resources Inc. donated $10 million toward the $14 million project. The North Dakota Industrial Commission and its oil and gas research program funded the remaining $4 million for the public and private venture.

One of the reasons UND was chosen for the gift was the state's involvement in oil development and its attitude toward it, Hamm said.

"I know the resources you have are limited, and where you put them is important," he said.

Continental Resources, of which Hamm is CEO, stands among the top petroleum producers in the United States and operates 10 percent of the drilling rigs in North Dakota.

Training in geology will be especially helpful in the future, he said. Of the billions of barrels of oil believed to be in the Bakken, he estimates the state is able to access 2.5 percent to 3 percent of it.

"The situation is that we need a lot of young people to ... do all the work necessary, so we can double and triple those numbers in the future," he said. "A lot of work has to be done."

Funding goals

The Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering is expected to produce at least 50 petroleum geologist graduates per year who will be competitive in a dynamic global market, according to Industrial Commission documents.

Funding will cover the following:

• The creation of a $2 million high-resolution virtual core library to provide students with advanced scanning technology and software that goes beyond what can be done with a microscope. For example, you can see "pictures of holographs on screens where you can walk through the oil field and look around you at the wells, and see which formations they're producing from," said Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who attended the announcement of the gift.

• $7.5 million toward endowed faculty positions for the Harold Hamm distinguished professor of petroleum geology and professor of petroleum engineering; $1.3 million toward leadership scholarships and $720,000 for assistantships and student scholarships.

• A fund covering hands-on field studies, workshops and other student development opportunities.

• $1.5 million toward equipment for laboratories where students can do research on improving oil and gas recovery strategies, among other areas.

Record gift

Dalrymple called Hamm a "good friend to North Dakota" and said his $10 million gift was the largest ever given by a non-alumnus.

"What we have is the opportunity to create an incredibly productive, dynamic program in geology and geological engineering that will lead to many, many more students engaging in this type of education," he said. "It's going to lead to a lot of discoveries, I believe, in the Bakken formation and the other formations we have in North Dakota, and it's going to be long-lasting."

Hamm also provided a lead gift in establishing an expanded state Heritage Center in Bismarck, scheduled to open early this winter, Dalrymple said.

University officials and Industrial Commission members Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring joined Dalrymple at the podium to give remarks.

"It is our goal that this is only the beginning of what we can do partnering with private industry to educate our future workforce," said Stenehjem.

Dean of the UND College of Engineering and Mines Said Hesham El-Rewini said he was thrilled with the opportunity it provides to the college.

"We'll be able to better educate and produce generations of geologists and engineers who will contribute to the economic growth and development of North Dakota, the region and the world," he said.