February 02, 2020

Anthony Francis Lucas was born into a family of shipbuilders in the city of Split, Croatia. After completing successful studies at the Polytechnical Institute of Graz in Austria, he became a mechanical engineer, then entered the Austrian naval academy. He moved to Michigan in 1879 and became US citizen in 1885. Lucas started to work in salt exploration in Louisiana for a New Orleans company in 1893 and specialized in the salt deposits and its possible relationship with the presence of crude oil. In 1899 he became a drilling contractor working for the oil explorer Patillo Higgins. His first wells drilled were failures. Lucas asking for help received support from Standard Oil through John Galley who surveyed the area. A spot was picked on Spindletop Hill, located in the southern portion of Beaumont, Texas. Drilling progressed with considerable difficulties. Exhausted after 2 months of strenuous drilling, the crew shut down for a week over the Christmas holiday, 1900, having reached a depth of 880 feet. They arrived back on site on New Year’s Day, 1901, and within a week drilled down to a depth of 1,020 feet. On January 10, 1901, running in hole at 700ft, natural gas suddenly erupted followed by a stream of crude oil reaching 60 metres (200 ft). This was more oil than had ever been seen anywhere in the entire world. Captain Lucas had been hopeful that this well might produce 5 barrels per day. In fact, this well, “Lucas 1”, flowed at an initial rate of nearly 100,000 barrels per day, more than all of the other producing wells in the United States combined. It took nine days before the well was brought under control. The Spindletop gusher catapulted Beaumont into an oil-fueled boomtown with the population swelling from 10,000 to 50,000 in a matter of months. Before the end of 1901, Lucas 1 well was joined by over 200 other wells owned by more than 100 different oil companies, all fighting for space. Spindletop gave birth to giants such as Gulf Oil, Amoco and Humble Oil.
Anthony Francis Lucas considered as the founder of the petroleum reservoir engineering served later as consultant in Romania, Russia, Mexico, Algeria, as well as in the United States. Lifelong chairman of American Committee for Oil and Gas, Lucas died on September 2, 1921 in Washington, D.C.
(Image: Drilling crew on Spindletop Hill in 1901)