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Anthony Francis Lucas
Anthony Francis Lucas (September 9, 1855–September 2 1921) was responsible for the first successful oil well at the Spindletop oil field in Southeast Texas, which made Beaumont, Texas one of the first oil boomtowns.
After regular education, already at the age of twenty he completed studies at the Polytechnic Institute , (Technische Hochschule) in Graz, (Austria), becoming the mechanical engineer. It was exactly the same time when another famous individual from Croatia, the Serb Nikola Tesla was studying at the same school. After entering the Austrian Naval Academy , serving in Pula and Rijeka Lucić rose to the rank of the second lieutenant.
Visit to U.S.
In 1879, Lučić visited his uncle in the United States, (Saginaw, Michigan). He settled here and changed the name to Anthony Francis Lucas receiving his naturalization papers on May 9, 1885 at Norfolk, Virginia. He married Caroline Weed Fitzgerald and soon with the son Anthony Fitzgerald Lucas moved to Washington, D.C. in 1887. First, he found employment in lumber industry. Later, interested in mining he ranged from Colorado peaks to the plains of Louisiana prospecting for gold and rock salt.
In 1893, Lucas started to work in the salt exploration in Louisiana for the New Orleans company at Petite Anse Avery Island). Working at more different locations, (Grand Cote,Anse la Butte and Belle Isle), until 1896 he gained experience of which the most promising was that one of the possible relationship between the salt deposits and the sulfur, (most probably even crude oil), in the tertiary sediments of the Gulf Coast region. Most mainstream geologists disagreed with Lucas's theory. However, as a result of explorations undertaken so far and the experiences gained, he was foremost expert on these formations in the United States.
In 1899, Lucas became drilling contractor and leased the land south of Beaumont, Texas from the oil explorer Pattillo Higgins . He believed that the site - Spindletop hill south of Beaumont - was covering a vast pool of crude oil. Drilling began in late 1900 but was extremely difficult. At the depth of 60 m, a layer of sand was found. Later the equipment, (a new rotating hydraulic drilling), collapsed upon reaching a depth of approximately 275 m. Since able to deal with technical difficulties on his own but short on money, Lucas asked for help John Rockefeller, the one of the Standard Oil. Rockefeller denied the assistance but persuaded John H. Galey and James M. Guffey of the Mellon family from Pittsburgh, (Pennsylvania), to join the project. Finally, after reaching the depth of 370 m, in 10.30 in the morning of January 10 1901, gas eruption occurred followed by the stream of crude oil reaching the height of 60 m. The eruption lasted nine days and was stopped by one of Lučić's device, invented before.
The Lucas Gusher, (also called the Lucas Spindletop Gusher), produced around 14 000 t of oil a day. The occasion witnessed by about 50 000 spectators was the earliest mass exploitation of the crude oil, in the entire world. Soon, the black gold rush began, and entrepreneurs from all over poured into Texas. The city population mushroomed from 8 000 to 60 000 within a year. With 1902 as many as 285 wells were operating on Spindletop Hill and over 600 oil companies had been chartered. Lucas possessed just a tiny share in company he helped to establish. Because this and other reasons at the end of 1901 he left the company.
The discovery revolutionized world fuel use and transformed the economy of Southeast Texas. It did help the development of the just recently invented automobile, and it's manufacturing since significant amount of new energy needed for the new kind of transportation became available. With time, the city of Houston become national center of the oil industry, and the United States surpassed Russia as the world's leading producer.
His broad knowledge of geology enabled him to differentiate prospective fields from those considered unsuitable for exploration. He learned about natural properties of petroleum reservoirs, (also mineral deposits ), and is also considered to be the founder of modern petroleum reservoir engineering. He later served as a consulting engineer in Romania, Russia, Mexico, Algeria, and the United States. As successful businessman and undisputed expert in mining, Lucas was the life long chairman of an American Committee for Oil and Gas.
Inventions and Applications
- overhead method of mining in salt mines
- surface exploration of underground mineral deposits
- application of hydraulic rotary rig in oil well drilling
- construction and application of back pressure valve
- use of clay for drilling fluids
- construction of blowout, so called "killing" equipment
- designing of well logs
Lucas died in Washington, D.C. on September 2, 1921. As to his nationality, he is often mistakenly described as Austrian, sometimes even as the Italian born in Trieste. On his grave in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. he is said to be of Illyric origin, what was once standard name for Croatian.
In 1936 the American Institute for Geological and Metallurgical Investigations founded the Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal prize for development in the area of oil exploration. The museum with granite obelisk was built to honor the explorer. Related inscription states that his discovery revolutionized industry and transport, changed lives of people in the whole world. As the true pioneer of oil mining, Anthony F. Lucas is with among 200 most deserving Americans in the course of country's entire history.
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