A native of Abbeville and engineering graduate of LSU, Thomas began as a roustabout and rig hand and joined The Superior Oil Company as an engineer and supervisor in 1959. “Don’t dare forget to use the word ‘The’ when you mention Superior,” he quipped in his acceptance speech.
Thomas rose through the ranks, breaking new ground for the company off the Caribbean coast, in the jungle rain forests of Colombia, and in the high plains of Bolivia.
“In the rain forest, the geologist wanted to go to 15,000 feet but few had gone past 12,000,” he said. “They said we couldn’t do it. You were limited by the length of drilling line you had [on the rig].” The requisite length of line was too heavy for delivery by one helicopter. Undaunted, the ingenious Thomas rounded up two of the aircraft, conjoined to deliver a near three-mile length of line to the site. “One helicopter had it at one end and the second had it at the other, carrying it off over the jungle to the location,” he said. That was in the 1970s — a feat not likely repeated in today’s operational environment.
Thomas pioneered once again as a partner at Petitfils and Associates, where in 1980 he set a world record for the engineering and management of a 22,000-foot well in the Tuscaloosa Trend. The operational depths there were so great that drilling jobs often turned into fishing jobs because tools would twist off at the end of the drill pipe.
“We drilled a 17-1/2 inch hole to 16,780 feet, set 13-5/8 inch casing there then went to 8-1/2 inches at TD so we saw no problems with twist off,” he explained.
The Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition is Oct. 22-24 at the Cajundome and its convention center.