About 450 million years ago, a meteor struck north-central Oklahoma, creating an impact crater – an astrobleme – more than eight miles wide.

The Ames Crater impact site is one of six oil-producing craters in the United States.

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”

Today, the small. rural community of Ames proudly claims the crater as its own – and as an important contributor to the geological knowledge of the nation’s petroleum industry.

Located about 20 miles southwest of Enid, the Ames crater – an astrobleme – is buried by about 9,000 feet of sediment, making it barely visible on the surface. The hidden crater remained unrecognized until 1991, when a prolific oilfield was discovered.

Ames-abstract-crater-OU-AOGHS

A meteorite hit Oklahoma 450 million years ago, producing a crater thousands of feet deep and eight miles wide. Image courtesy Judson Ahern, Oklahoma University.

On August 18, 2007, Ames citizens celebrated the opening of their astobleme museum describing the meteor’s (estimated to have been the size of a football) impact.

The museum is a small, open-ended A-frame structure that requires no staff, according to independent producer Lew Ward (1930-2016), founder of Ward Petroleum in Enid.

Ward 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, 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,” he noted in 2007.

The Ames Astrobleme Museum features all-weather automated video panels to educate visitors.

The small, museum, which is without staff and 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

Ames astrobleme museum

The man who found oil in the Ames crater, Harold Hamm (center) spoke at the Astrobleme Museum’s opening in August 1992. Photo courtesy Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center.

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.

Ames astrobleme museum

The crater “is one of the most remarkable and studied geological features in the world because of its economic significance.” Image courtesy Judson Ahern, OU.

According to the American Association of Professional Geologists, 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 Hamm’s discovery, many more wells have been completed in the Ames crater, some producing more than a million barrels of oil. About 30 of the original wells are still producing. In 1994, the combined flow from three wells averaged more than 2,000 barrels of oil and 730,000 cubic feet of gas per day.

The Ames crater 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 was the primary developer of the museum (also know as the Ames Astrobleme Museum) and spoke at the 2007 dedication during Ames Day, an annual fundraising event for the volunteer fire department.

At the dedication, 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, introduced Charles Mankin, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. An expert geologist, Mankin described the crater’s significance for the citizens of Ames, geologists, oil producers…and petroleum history.

Editor’s Note – Lew Ward, an earlier supporter of the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, also led efforts for a state-of-the-art educational facility in Enid, the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center. This article adapted from news stories in the Enid News & Eagle, Aug. 19, 2007, and the AAPG Explorer, March 2002.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.