HomeAwardsEnergy Innovator of the Year 2023 – Continental Resources and Tom Lerum

Energy Innovator of the Year 2023 – Continental Resources and Tom Lerum

Continental Resources, with Tom Lerum as the director of energy innovations, is working to increase sustainability and decrease its environmental impact with the development of the ECO-pad concept, among other efforts.

Tell me about your role as Director of Energy Innovations as well as the role your team plays in driving innovation at Continental Resources.

The purpose of Continental’s Energy Innovations team is to seek strategic, innovative opportunities within the energy landscape that focus on delivering long-term value, sustainability, and optionality for our company. This is primarily accomplished through research and development, process improvement, and direct investment in new technologies, projects, and companies. My role in support of this objective is to help source and evaluate new opportunities while also managing and advancing our portfolio of previous investments and projects. It is an exciting job, and I am constantly humbled by the intelligence, ingenuity and passion of the inventors, entrepreneurs and project developers I get to interact with daily.

How is Continental Resources pushing innovation forward as a traditional energy company?

Innovation has been at the heart of Continental Resources and our founder, Harold Hamm, since he started the company in 1967. We pride ourselves in having a culture of the possible, where we continuously seek new and innovative ways to improve how we do business. In the past, this ethos led to us being pioneers in the development of horizontal drilling. It subsequently resulted in our development of the ECO-pad concept, allowing us to further reduce the environmental footprint of our operations. Today, we continue to utilize innovation in the pursuit of increased efficiency and sustainability, allowing us to produce and provide energy that is cleaner and more abundant. Many of our skill sets and core competencies as an oil and gas company also have tremendous carry over into other forms of energy, which is critical to how we think about innovation outside of our traditional exploration and production business.

What does innovation mean in the energy industry?

First, I cannot overemphasize the fundamental nature of energy and how our civilization is dependent on it. It is the foundation upon which our modern society is built, enabling industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, transportation, etc. There are three main pillars to consider and keep in balance with respect to energy: reliability, affordability and sustainability. When I think about innovation in the energy industry, I think about it as any incremental improvement to those three pillars. It is any advancement in technology, materials and processes that helps us provide energy to the world more reliably, more affordably and more sustainably.

What specific initiatives is Continental Resources working on to push energy innovation further?

We are advocates for all forms of energy as we believe global energy demand will continue to climb due to societal modernization and population growth. In addition to on-going efforts to reduce the environmental impact of our oil and gas operations, we have also deployed over a quarter billion dollars investing in new energy technologies, specifically in the areas of carbon capture and sequestration, hydrogen, solar power and geothermal energy. We are also a member of several research and development consortiums and joint ventures focused on driving innovation in the energy industry through collaboration and risk sharing. Additionally, in 2021, Mr. Hamm and Continental established the Hamm Institute for American Energy at Oklahoma State University, contributing $50 million to help advance energy innovation and technology.

How is Continental Resources working to differentiate itself from its peers as far as innovation mcis concerned?

In my opinion, a very large and important step towards differentiating ourselves with respect to innovation occurred when Mr. Hamm and his family made the decision to take our company private last year. Being a private company gives us the freedom and flexibility to pursue innovation in a manner that aligns with the long-term vision of our enterprise. It gives us the ability to be more opportunistic with how we utilize our time, talent and capital as we come across innovative ideas and technologies that the public market might not have appreciated for an oil and gas company. This strategic focus will help us build upon Continental’s decades of success and ensure we are America’s energy champion for generations to come.


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