Faja de Oro de Mexico y la Gran Pozo Cerro Azul Numero Quatro

February 25, 2018

The Golden Lane of Mexico and the Great Blue Mountain No. 4 Well



El Jefe



No American involved in early Mexican oil history is more significant  than, Edward L. Doheny (1856-1935). A Californian responsible for several large discoveries of oil in the Los Angles Basin in the late 1800's, his work in Mexico, under the name, Mexican Petroleum Company, eventually led him to become the richest man in America, more so than even John D. Rockefeller. By 1925 Doheny's  wealth was estimated at  over $100 million and most of it came by way of Mexico.  In the 1920's Doheny was involved in the famous, Teapot Dome scandal and was accused of attempting to bribe federal employees to obtain oil leases in the Elk Hills region of California. He was eventually acquitted of those charges.


Upton  Sinclair's  great book, "Oil" was  loosely written   about  the  life  of  Doheny  
and   the  movie, "There Will  Be Blood,"   starring  Daniel  Day Lewis,  a  take-off  on  Sinclair's  book,  in  some  ways  parallels the  life  of Edward L. Doheny.


The early years  of Mexican oil  history were similar to  that of the United States in terms of the  ability to lease  minerals from large land owners  and in making  private investment in exploration and infrastructure to get oil to  developing markets. Many famous  American oil finders, like Everette DeGolyer, Benedum & Trees, H. C. Pierce, W.F.Buckley and others worked in  the jungle of eastern Mexico.


Mexico  ultimately nationalized  its  oil industry in 1938 and Doheny's  Mexican Petroleum  Company, his refineries in Tampico, pipelines, railroads and other holdings in Mexico  eventually became  part of  what  is today  called, Pemex


El Faja de Oro


As early as 1901, about the time Spindletop was  being discovered  on the Texas Gulf Coast,   Ed Doheny  explored  a surface anomaly that was  later determined to be a buried, Cretaceous-age carbonate ridge  along the  west flank of a  reef-like  atoll. The area was west of Tampico in the State of San Luis Potosi. There had long been numerous oil seeps reported along this very subtle surface feature.


Doheny first  discovered Ebano Field, about  45 miles  west of Tampico,  in 1901 at a depth of about 1,800 feet. Ten  miles  south  of  Ebano, in the state of Veracruz,  a  British company called  Eagle Oil Company  found enormous amounts of uncontrolled oil  flow in the "Dos Bocas Gusher," reported to  have  made 90,000 BOPD before cratering.  Doheny and the Mexican Petroleum Company leap-frogged  the Dos Bocas  well another 10 miles south and  discovered other fields, some  with enormous  flow rates. This north-south   trending play, basically  along the same buried carbonate  ridge, eventually  became known as the  La Callejuela de Oro (Faja de Oro), or the Golden Lane. The most  productive well in this  trend was the El Aguila, Potrero de Llano No. 4 and  from 1911-1919 it made close to 111,000,000 barrels of  23-28 gravity, sweet  oil before  it virtually  watered out  overnight. Another incredible well, the Huasteca (Doheny), Casiano No. 7 produced nearly 70,000,000 barrels of oil. Shallow oil  fields along the  Faja de Ora have accumulated a  little over  2.3 billion barrels of oil from 1906 to 1997.


El más grande de todos


By 1914 Doheny had finished a substantial refinery in Tampico, and a pipeline to accommodate his already several hundred thousand barrels per day of production in the region, and was slowly marching south along the buried ridge, the lane of golden oil, into the district of Cerro Azul. The first three wells drilled in the area were less than spectacular but helped to establish better cable tool drilling methods, depth to caprock above the pay zone, and also had further advanced the concept, with the help of a great Mexican geologist named, Ordonez, of buried serpentine (basalt) plugs that had pierced the carbonate ridge from below and created vugular, almost cavern-like porosity. In 1916, at the base of a  surface hill, Doheny spudded in the Cerro Azul No. 4 well and set 8 inch casing to the very top of the pay zone. He spudded into the top of the carbonate, to a total depth of 1,792 feet, and the well immediately started making gas that then turned to oil, blew the cable tools out of the hole, a thousand feet away, and the top of the wooden derrick off. So violent was the initial flow rate that large chunks of coral reef and pieces of stalagmites and stalactites from the formation were blown hundreds of feet away from the well.


The well continued to strengthen in flow over the ensuing days and was reported to have been blowing over 450 feet in the sky and could be heard over 16 miles away.The well blew completely out of control for nine days. Trenches were dug into earthen pits and  ravines and nearby  arroyos were dammed up  to contain  as much  of the oil as possible and engineers estimated flow rates down  hand-dug  ditches to be over 260,000  barrels of oil per day. 












Ultimately  good  men  were  able  to  nipple  the  well up directly  into  a  pipeline  and  it's  entire flow  was  directed toward  Tuxpan, then north towards  the refinery at Tampico. From 1916  to 2001 the  Cerro Azul  No. 4 well  flowed  a  remarkable 57,000,000  barrels  of  oil up  8 inch casing with  a steady, 1000 PSI of FCP. It was  never  placed on artificial  lift. It produced an estimated 64,000,000 BO.




I was  fortunate enough to  drive thru the heart of the Golden Lane into the city  of Pozo Rico in 2003 and visited the  Cerro Azul No. 4. It was reported to still  be making heads of oil from time to time  but  its location was in sort of a nice park area and the well is  treated  much like  a  monument in the community.




While  driving  thru  this  beautiful part  of  Mexico I was struck  with how incredibly  difficult it must  have been in  that  era  to  build roads  thru  thick,  hardwood jungles,  erect  bridges across  rivers and  railroads  to access  oil  fields and  haul equipment to  remote drill  sites; of the  heat,  humidity and  mosquitoes closer  to  the coastal  plain  and  of  the  hardships  men and  women  endured  to  get the Mexican  oil industry  underway.


So,  forgive me, but  I  kind of  think the  term "monster well," used  to describe  a  Bakken  well in  North Dakota  that is  being  gutted up production  casing,  post-frac,  with an IP of  2,800 BOEPD and  on  its  way to 485,000  BOE of  total UR over 20  years, maybe, 325,000 of that being oil, maybe, is a little silly. That might be  a monster  well  to some (particularly if  they are not  paying  the bills on it !) but  those kinds of wells pale in  comparison to those  like the Cerro Azul No. 4 and many others like it  that  are part of  the worldwide oil industry's  long  and  very colorful history.  






Mis más sinceras disculpas por mi mal escrito en español. Hablo peor que yo escribo, me temo, Lo siento,



Recommended reading about the great Golden Lane of Mexico: 




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