A spectacular discovery

One of the most spectacular oil discoveries ever occurred in 1901. On a brisk January morning, the drillers hit pay 308m below the surface of a salt-induced hill. Oil in huge quantities was forced upwards and caused what become known as the Lucas gusher.
This article appeared in Vol. 5, No. 3 - 2008


The Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont, Texas, features a derrick similar to those from the ‘good old days’. Photo: Halfdan Carstens At the time, oil was mostly used for illumination, heating and lubrication. The sudden introduction of a source that appeared to be plentiful had two far-reaching consequences. Firstly, the oil price dropped to 3 cents a barrel, and secondly, oil became the preferred source of energy for all kinds of machinery and transportation. The world had changed for ever.

A lesson to learn

This discovery of oil at Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas, serves as a lesson for explorationists around the world. Petroleum geology was in its infancy in the late 19th century, and very little was known about how oil was generated and trapped, meaning that "crazy" ideas had a merit. Crazy geologists as well, although there were few geologists around in the early days of oil exploration. Rather, entrepreneurs developed into geologists by reading a few books and observing natural phenomena while wandering around. Oil seeps, for example, should have been taken for what they were: surface expressions of oil underground. Nevertheless, conservatism often prevailed - as is still true - and made it difficult for the oil finders.  

The story about the big gusher at Spindletop that concluded a more than ten year search for an oil reservoir few believed was there, and which is told in our account starting on page 66, is a prime example of how persistence - and innovation - pays off.  

We still need "crazy" geologists today. There are numerous stories around about "crazy" geologists, not companies, finding oil. We are talking about geologists who look for "seeps" in the broad sense: signs of oil in all the data they have access to: outcrops, cores, logs, and seismic, to mention a few.  

To put it briefly: our ideas - based on data - find oil. Do not let conservatism put you off.


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