spwm haroldhammHarold Hamm 2012Photo by David ShankboneOil prices still have room to run after rallying to 3½-year highs, drilling pioneer Harold Hamm said Wednesday.

Continental Resources chairman and CEO Harold Hamm sees benchmark U.S. crude prices rising beyond the present three-and-half year runup by as much as $10. "We're not looking at $100 oil in the future, or probably $90 oil, but it certainly could be in the mid-$70s and low $80s," he told CNBC.

Continental, which pioneered horizontal drilling in North Dakota's Bakken shale fields, is seeing benefits from higher prices. Hamm said Continental did not hedge its production. That is it didn’t lock in a price on future oil deliveries to protect it from price drops. Hedging, or locking in a price with buyers for future oil deliveries, protects drillers against price drops. That is a double-edged sword. A company will not benefit from price increases.

Hamm said that Continental will throw the potential $1 billion in free cash flow at reducing its debt load that resulted in the low crude prices. Continental ended the first quarter of 2018 with $6.17 billion in debt. Hamm said the company's goal is to get that down to $5 billion.

Shale drilling boosted U.S. crude production to record highs, but has not been without problems. West Texas, for examples, doesn't have enough pipelines to handle the new output. Hamm said North Dakota worked around that.

"We had that up here, as you'll recall, and certainly before we got adequate pipelines and gathering," said Hamm. "But now that we have it, our cost structure is much lower, and they still have headwinds in that area."