Thomas, vice chairman of the board for Clean Energy Technology Associates Inc. and a lifelong oilman, has been a fixture at recent LAGCOE events since donning the Looey hardhat — first at the 2013 show and then for two years at LAGCOE meetings, many associated with LAGCOE’s Young Professionals group.
"Al Thomas has been an amazing Looey over the past two years, wearing his hard hat with pride to represent LAGCOE to the best of his abilities,” said LAGCOE Executive Director Angela Cring. "He has been a strong supporter of all Young Professionals of LAGCOE efforts and other new LAGCOE programs.
"He has attended numerous YPL events, the LAGCOE Sporting Clays Tournament and the LAGCOE Career Fair,” Cring said. "Al’s strengths as Looey include his infectious energy for bringing the next generation along and constant encouragement for staff and volunteers.”
Thomas began working with future generations of energy workers at LAGCOE 2013. That’s when the YPL arranged for 100 high school students — many of them students interested in science, technology, engineering and math — to tour LAGCOE and meet with some of the more than 400 exhibitors.
"They were high school juniors and seniors — some of them picked from STEM programs,” Thomas said. "I wore the hat, addressed them at the LITE Center and told them about my life’s work.”
That life’s work included time in the oilfield as a roughneck while working his way through LSU, where he earned his degree in petroleum engineering. He started as a professional with Superior Oil in 1959, spent time drilling wells in places like Colombia, Bolivia and the Caribbean, before he branched out on his own in 1985 with American Explorer, exploring the Southern U.S., and central and western Gulf of Mexico for oil.
Thomas retired formally in 2003, but kept active within the industry through special projects, work with CETA and volunteer work with LAGCOE. He was chair of LAGCOE 2005, canceled weeks before it was scheduled because of Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
Selected as LAGCOE Looey by Kirby Arceneaux, 2013 LAGCOE chairman, Thomas handled with aplomb the various roles assigned to him at the show, which included greeting attendees at the Cajundome door, appearing at the ribbon-cutting that opened the exposition and thanking exhibitors for attending and supporting the show.
He also attended prayer breakfasts held at the Cajundome during LAGCOE and discussed each day’s activities for The Daily Advertiser and its website.
With experience drilling abroad, Thomas also visited LAGCOE 2013’s International Center and attended presentations on international topics. At one session, he said, the speaker stopped his presentation to say LAGCOE Looey was in the audience. Many people wanted their photo taken with LAGCOE Looey, the show’s goodwill ambassador. That was all pretty heady stuff.
But LAGCOE 2013 was a transformational show, one in which the organization expanded its reach into the industry to include additional focus on workforce development and recruiting newcomers to the industry. For the first time, LAGCOE 2013 offered a job fair, which drew an additional 3,000 people to the show. Some 17,000 attended LAGCOE over its three days in 2013 — a record.
The outreach to young people was also new. The YPL group formed and grew to more than 500 members that year; their projects include a clay shoot fundraiser and the STEM student tours.
The career fair was such a hit that LAGCOE repeated it at the Cajundome in 2014, drawing 1,000 during a year when LAGCOE, a biennial event, did not host a show. Thomas donned his hardhat and appeared as Looey at the fair.
Thomas continued to work as a mentor with the YPL organization as it grew and took on new duties. Thomas appeared as LAGCOE Looey at the YPL’s clay shoot in 2014 — he was a judge in a cookoff affiliated with the event. For the second consecutive year, the YPL generated $100,000 in revenue, money that went to scholarships, higher education and training.
Thomas said LAGCOE’s growing footprint and progress has been a credit to its full-time staff and the YPL, which has injected new life into the 60-year-old organization. He said he enjoyed every moment he has spent with young people who are interested in oil and gas work or who are early in their careers.
Cring said that even as Thomas prepared to step down as LAGCOE Looey, he found new, valuable duties with the organization.
"His efforts to support both the industry and LAGCOE continue on as he is now one of the founding members of the newly established LAGCOE Oilfield Alumni committee, which seeks to pass on industry experience to the next generations,” Cring said.
Thomas said that committee was started by Cring, and will include five to 10 members — oilfield veterans whose knowledge and wisdom will help guide LAGCOE’s growth.
"It’s really like a think tank, a place to bounce ideas around,” Thomas said. "We get the ‘old heads’ together, and guide people, help people, do whatever needs to be done for LAGCOE.”
Formed in July, the group has met twice, and will meet again Monday.
This year, the alumni group will work with companies that fly people to LAGCOE from Houston, and will accommodate those visitors in small tour groups to maximize their time at the show.
"When the visitors arrive, we will give their people a tour. One YPL member, a student from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette or LSU student will lead a tour of five or six, take them to the right places.
"Our guides won’t have to look around, find out where to go and who they need to talk with. They’ll know. That way they can speed up and direct these visitors to right place,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he’s proud of his two-year tenure as LAGCOE Looey.
"I think I did a lot more as LAGCOE Looey than most of the previous people, but that was because I was involved with LAGCOE as a former chairman and co-chair. A lot of things I did I’d have done anyway. But when you put the hat on, it’s like you’re specially going to visit those people,” he said.
He said he talked with Dwight "Bo” Ramsay, LAGCOE Looey 2011, before he assumed the role and has talked with Charlie Moncla, LAGCOE Looey 2015, to pass along his knowledge.
"Charlie and I are close,” he said. "I told him everything I did at LAGCOE 2013.