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Mexico; Part II


Tampalache; 1910

After Edward Doheny's discovery of oil near Ebano, in the State of San Luis Potosi in 1904, American, Canadian, English, and German exploration companies slowly began infiltrating the coastal plains west and south of the port of Tampico along the Gulf of Mexico. Here, like Ebano, abundant oil seeps (chapapotes) bubbled up out the ground everywhere and gas could be seen along tributaries of the Panuco River.

One of the most famous of American industrialists bird-dogging Edward Doheny's 1904 discovery in Ebano was Thomas Mellon the founder of Gulf Oil (Chevron), who drilled numerous wells in the Panuco region in 1907-1910. His exploration efforts were minimal and his attentions shifted to refining heavy oils in the northern Mexico region and shipping the stuff around the world. As his holdings increased in Mexico Mellon played a significant role in US policy toward Mexico and the protection of American interests. particularly once the Mexican Revolution began in 1910. Mellon actually lobbied the US State Department to invade Mexico in 1911. When the Mexican oil industry was nationalized in 1938, President Lázaro Cárdenas often referred to Mellon in his fiery speeches against foreign oil ownership.

Those early Mexican oil explorationists were primarily drilling 2,000 foot Aqua Nueva sandstone with not much success. Most penetrations of the upper Tamulipas limestone were coming up wet and very hot. Water flows from this interval were often found to be upwards of 150 degrees F and believed to be related to underlying volcanic rocks. Eventually some good oil fields were found in the Tamulipas formation in Panuco and Topila Fields.

The "northern" oil fields of NE Mexico were encouraging but far from earth shattering. Product was heavy and easily movable to nearby ports in Tampico. The two "big boys" in Mexico's fledgling oil industry, Doheny and Pearson, were starting to move south from Tampico toward Tuxpam and were finding shallower Tamasopo limestone with tremendous reef like porosity.

Clapp, Frederick G. (Frederick Gardner), 1879-1944; Courtesy AGSL Digital Photography Collection

University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

The above photo was taken along the river bank near Tampalache, 1910, and is believed to be a successful Panuco-Boston Oil Company well in the Panuco Field. Within months of this photograph Huasteca Petroleum (Doheny) was going to hit it, grande, south on the Hacienda Juan Casiano and the tragic Mexican Revolution was to begin.

Next week, on Mexico, Parte Tres, a young American geologist from Oklahoma comes to Mexico and sorts out the geology of the Tampico Basin off horseback, and on his knees looking at rocks. He will later return to the US to organize the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.


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