Photograph by E.E. Barroso
The narrative of early Mexican oil is often inconsistent, photographs clearly mislabeled and dates confusing. Stories that are 120 years old are often lost in language translations and over time. I have become fairly competent reading Spanish and many of the fine pieces written by Mexican people proud of their industry, and of their country. I sometimes believe my passion for the subject of Mexican oil is such that I can actually imagine myself actually there. General George Patton once said that about his knowledge of history. Imagination helps clarify confusing aspects of the story if one can recognize rig design and look at maps and surface terrain for consistency in descriptions and narrative.
For instance, a famous photograph of Doheny's, 1910 Casiano well in the public domain is of a well not even located in SE Mexico, the new automobiles on location of the mid 1920's era and the cable tool rig completely enclosed to stave off cold weather. The photograph is actually of a well in S. Dakota. When writing about the great El Aguila fire at Dos Bocas, a trip to Global Earth shows the crater still there 110 years later, and I was able to then find dry holes drilled nearby and see how millions of barrels of oil flowed to the nearby lagoon.
A great deal of valuable history of American and English participation in the birth of Mexico's oil industry is now in the hands of Pemex and I know from a wonderful email I received from Jonathan Brown, the author of Oil and Revolution In Mexico that Pemex was very helpful to his work and literally opened their records, and their hearts to him and his research. I can only hope more work will be done about this extraordinary period in Mexico's history.
My career in the oil business has been hard. I started with nothing and self-taught myself about many things necessary to become a fair operator, make money for my partners, and feed my family. I had no formal education and learned from my mistakes out of necessity. It was that or fail. I suppose then I am drawn to early Mexican oil history because it too was hard, in a hard land, and it took courage and tenacity to succeed.
The Golden Lane of Mexico is a remarkable geological phenomena that resulted in the biggest well flows and cumulative production figures the world has ever known. That oil came from shallow depths, was hot from its volcanic related origins, flowed staggering amounts of oil and then went completely to water overnight. It lasted less than two decades, and then it was gone. As one can imagine this area has been shot and reshot many times with 3 and 4 dimensional seismic data but has never been replicated since the 1920's. It was all truly a remarkable discovery, in a an early, remarkable time in our history. Men were tough and they learned as they went along. They had to. Or fail.
Thank you for reading my stuff of Mexico and tolerating my poor Spanish. I wanted to get much of it right and I hope that I did. It has been an honor.
About the future of oil and gas in our world, we cannot know where we are going unless first we truly understand where we have been and who brung us to this great dance.