Harold Hamm

Continental Resources

Editor's note: This profile is part of Hart Energy's 50th anniversary Hall of Fame series honoring industry pioneers of the past 50 years and the Agents of Change (ACEs) who are leading the energy sector into the future.

Harold Hamm

Continental Resources began prospecting in the Williston Basin in the mid-1980s. The E&P had been active in a couple of oil fields in the basin when Burlington Resources (now part of ConocoPhillips) decided to put horizontals in Red River B in western North Dakota in the mid-1990s. Continental ended up co-developing Cedar Hills Field with Burlington. 

The company soon joined the prolific new Elm Coulee Field play in the middle Bakken in eastern Montana in the early 2000s, and took the idea into Divide County, N.D., where it reentered an old, dry hole, deepened it and turned the bit into a lateral in the Bakken there. 

Harold Hamm, founder and executive chairman, told Hart Energy when he was inducted into the Rocky Mountain Hall of Fame in 2014, of the early days of the modern Bakken play in North Dakota. “There were times we were discouraged with this well or that well but, overall, we saw a continuous, gradual improvement with everything we were doing. 

“We knew we were onto something very big—and it was going to happen.”

Big, indeed: From there, the company has grown into a $25 billion E&P, wholly focused on U.S. Lower 48 unconventional-resource plays in North Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma and the Permian Basin.

While controlling more than 80% of shares, Hamm took the company private in 2022 after having used public capital beginning in 2007 to fund development of Continental’s new tight-rock potential in the Bakken.

“[The rock] didn’t work anything like it did in Montana,” he told Hart Energy. “It was different. What worked in Montana did not work [in North Dakota]. We kept trying different techniques and finally went to stage treatments. So, we had to change everything.

“We’d bought a lot of acreage that we needed to be developing and we had very little capital. We decided we’d take the company public.”

Hamm founded Oklahoma City-based Continental in 1967 as an oilfield service shop and began drilling wells in 1971. 

Hamm’s autobiography, “Game Changer: Our 50-Year Mission to Secure America’s Energy Independence,” was released in 2023. The forward is written by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Hamm told Hart Energy that he wrote the book, in part, to dispel the “jillion myths and untruths unfairly told by disparagers about this industry I love” and to inspire future generations of explorers.

“Perhaps the next little, barefoot, country boy will get a big enough good idea to change the world,” he said.

He hosted the American Energy Security Summit in September at his Hamm Institute for American Energy in Oklahoma City, where speakers included Pompeo, presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Doug Burgum, Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO David Solomon, Chevron Chairman and CEO Mike Wirth, FedEx founder and Executive Chairman Fred Smith, Occidental Petroleum President and CEO Vicki Hollub and former Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, who is now president of Sempra Infrastructure.

He was tight-lipped with Hart Energy about his ideas for the next big play, save for this assurance: “It’s going to be better.”

—Nissa Darbonne, Executive Editor-at-Large

Click here to see the rest of Hart Energy's 2023 Hall of Fame.