Fracking billionaire Hamm gives $50 million to start energy institute

Harold Hamm Source: Pipeline News file photo

Billionaire oil wildcatter Harold Hamm is donating $50 million for a new research center at Oklahoma State University focused on “securing America’s energy future,” a move that comes as the industry debates how to transition to cleaner fuels.

The Harold Hamm Foundation and Continental Resources Inc., the shale driller controlled by the Oklahoma native, are giving $25 million each to the university to start the Hamm Institute for American Energy, according to a statement released Wednesday. 

The donation “will bring together the brightest minds and future energy sector leaders from around the world, all with a goal of solving one of society’s most pressing concerns,” Kayse Shrum, president of Oklahoma State, said in a statement. 

Hamm, 76, has been a staunch advocate of oil and gas production, even as drillers come under increasing pressure from policy makers and investors to rein in the emissions that contribute to climate change. A 2013 study from Oklahoma State researchers found that fracking’s secondary effects would increasingly challenge small towns and cities grappling with job gains and environmental costs. Earthquakes have been linked to activity related to shale production in states including Oklahoma.

Hamm has loosened the purse strings this year after surging crude prices boosted his personal fortune. Continental surprised investors last month by announcing a $3.25 billion deal with Pioneer Natural Resources Co. for Permian Basin assets and said it has set aside hundreds of millions to pursue acquisitions in the the world’s biggest shale field. Continental is also bringing back its dividend and doubling it after shelving the payout during history’s worst oil crash last year.

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