The University of North Dakota plans to establish a new geology school with help from $10 million in contributions from a major oil company and its chairman, one of the nation’s wealthiest men.
The initiative will include $5 million contributions from Continental Resources Inc., based in Oklahoma City, and Harold Hamm, the company’s chairman, chief executive officer and majority shareholder, state Industrial Commission filings say. The commission oversees North Dakota oil and natural gas regulation.
Continental is one of the leading companies in western North Dakota’s oil-producing region, where output has quintupled in the last five years. North Dakota is now the nation’s No. 2 oil-producing state, and accounts for about 11 percent of the nation’s domestic output.
The new school of geology and geological engineering will be part of UND’s existing college of engineering and mining, documents say. It will be named for Hamm, who is worth almost $10 billion as the majority shareholder in Continental. Forbes magazine ranks Hamm 35th on its list of the 400 richest Americans.
The Industrial Commission planned Monday to consider approving a $4 million contribution to the project from a state oil and gas research fund, which would be paid in $1 million installments over four years.
The money will be used to equip the new college with advanced laboratory gear and an image library, boost pay for its faculty members and provide student scholarships. It expects to graduate at least 50 petroleum geologists and engineers each year, according to an Industrial Commission filing that requested the $4 million in aid.
The state Geological Survey already stores rock samples from oil drilling in western North Dakota at a recently enlarged “core library,” data from which is relied upon by the oil industry.
“This is a great example of the things that can come when we work together with the private sector, and begin to build education opportunities for our students in North Dakota,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple told The Associated Press. “These are great careers.”
Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring make up the Industrial Commission. The agency also oversees two state-owned businesses, the Bank of North Dakota and the state Mill and Elevator in Grand Forks.
Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources, said only schools outside North Dakota, such as Montana Tech of the University of Montana, offer training similar to what will be available at the new North Dakota school.
“Our students, our bright scientists that are graduating from high school have had to leave the state to get an education in petroleum geology … or petroleum engineering,” Helms said. “We’re now going to be able to give them the very best education in those fields … and then turn around and employ them in this growing industry.”
Associated Press writer Dale Wetzel contributed from Bismarck, N.D.