A 1991 Oklahoma oil discovery in a hidden meteor crater attracted worldwide attention.
About 450 million years ago, a meteor about the size of a football struck north-central Oklahoma, creating an impact crater – an astrobleme – more than eight miles wide.
The small of Ames (population 239 at the 2010 census) proudly claims the crater as its own – and as a significant contributor to the geological knowledge of the nation’s petroleum industry.
As•tro•bleme (noun) – A depression, usually circular, on the surface of the Earth that is caused by the impact of a meteorite. From mid-20th century. astro- + Greek blçma “wound from a missile”
Located about 20 miles southwest of Enid, the Ames astrobleme is buried by about 9,000 feet of sediment, making it barely visible on the surface. The impact crater remained unrecognized until 1991, when a prolific oilfield was discovered by Continnental Oil Company.
On August 18, 2007, Ames citizens celebrated the historic discovery by opening of their Ames Astobleme Museum describing the small meteor’s large impact.
The museum design includes an open-ended, A-frame structure that requires no staff, according to independent producer Lew Ward, founder of Ward Petroleum in Enid. He was among those who drilled successfully in a region known as the Sooner Trend in the early 1960s. A former chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), Ward helped establish the Ames museum – and also was instrumental in building a new heritage center in Enid.
“The Ames Astrobleme is one of the most remarkable and studied geological features in the world because of its economic significance,” Ward noted in 2007.
The small museum, which requires no on-site staff and remains open 24 hours, features high-tech, all-weather video panels on its north and south walls. The panels describe the crater’s formation…and its geological significance, which was revealed by a leading independent producer in the early 1990s.
One of the videos includes comments from the man who defied the experts and discovered oil in the crater – Enid independent producer Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources.
Impact of Harold Hamm
Many geologists had believed impact craters unlikely locations for petroleum. Hamm, who had drilled wells in the Ames area since the early 1960s, thought otherwise. Although wells had been drilled nearby, no one had attempted to reach deep into the crater.
In 1991, a geologist at Continental Resources found something unusual in the site, so the company drilled a deeper than the normal well – about 10,000 feet – and struck oil. Initial production from this first well was about 200 barrels a day. Cumulative production figures through 2006 show production in the Ames crater area approaching 11 million barrels.
According to the American Association of Professional Geologists (AAPG), the potential for petroleum production from impact craters “seized the attention of the Oklahoma oil industry in the early 1990s. Several new, deep wells in the Sooner Trend produced exceptional amounts of oil and gas.”
Since the historic Continental Resources 1991 oil discovery, many more wells have been completed in the Ames astrobleme, some wells producing more than a million barrels of oil. In 1994, the combined flow from three of the company’s wells averaged more than 2,000 barrels of oil and 730,000 cubic feet of gas per day.
Further, the Ames impact site is one of only six oil-producing craters in the United States. It is among the largest producing craters producing 17.4 million barrels of oil and 79.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
Hamm, primary developer of the Ames Astrobleme Museum, spoke at the 2007 dedication during Ames Day, an annual fundraising event for the local volunteer fire department.
The museum dedication ceremony included Bert Mackie, vice chairman of Security National Bank, who grew up in Ames and was the first to advocate promoting the crater’s historical significance. Mackie introduced Charles Mankin, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OKS), who described the crater’s significance for the citizens of Ames, geologists, and the worldwide petroleum history.
Editor’s Note – Lew Ward (1930-2016), an early supporter of the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, led efforts to establish the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid. This article adapted from news stories in the Enid News & Eagle in 2007, and the AAPG Explorer, March 2002.
Recommended Reading: Oil And Gas In Oklahoma: Petroleum Geology In Oklahoma (2013); The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters (2014). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.
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Citation Information –Article Title: “Ames Astrobleme Museum.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/ames-astrobleme-oil-museum. Last Updated: August 11, 2021. Original Published Date: December 1, 2007.