(excerpted from the Friday, September 13, 1968 issue of The Reporter)
It is commonly referred to as BLACK GOLD. As often as not, it is found in the steaming jungle of the tropics, in the sandy wastes of the fiery desert or in the frigid tundra of the far north. It is more difficult and expensive to locate than is its yellow namesake, metallic gold.
To date, despite the expenditure of millions of dollars by major oil companies no commercial deposits of petroleum have been found in British Honduras.
The history of serious oil exploration in this country dates from the period 1938-40 when Shell Oil conducted an aerial photographic survey of the entire land area and followed up with geological and geophysical field studies. With the outbreak of World War II, Shell abandoned their exploration efforts and about the only useful result of this work was the production by Government from the photographs of a set of 31 maps on a scale of approximately 1 ¼ miles to the inch covering the country. These still form the basis for the assessment of land tax.
Nothing more was done by way of oil exploration until 1949 when Gulf Oil conducted some geological studies followed by an aerial magnetic survey in early 1950 and subsequently by ground magnetic, gravity and seismograph fieldwork leading to the drilling of Yalbac No. 1 in 1956. This proved to be a dry hole and was abandoned after penetrating to a depth of 9,005 feet.
Gulf Oil continued its efforts north of the Maya Mountains until 1962 during which time nine wells were drilled with the deepest going to 10,515 feet at Blue Creek. In addition, eight shallow stratigraphic tests were drilled in the Guinea Grass area.
Shortly after Gulf decided to abandon the search for oil, Phillips Petroleum entered the picture and after considerable field work, drilled eight dry holes. Several of these (including the deepest well drilled to date – Palmetto Caye which went to about 15,000 feet) were drilled off the southern coast of the country.
The most recent drilling was done by Shell which put down what proved to be dry holes at Turneffe Island and Glovers Reef.
Oil companies do not give up easily and the search continues. Chevron Oil holds an Oil Exploration License over most of the northern half of the country and has been conducting geochemical and geophysical surveys. Ajax Petroleum Co. and Ariel Petroleum Co. have Oil Exploration Licenses covering some 1,500 square miles on shore and offshore in southern British Honduras. It can be anticipated that additional drilling will be done in the future. If Lady Luck is in a good humor, British Honduras may yet become a producer of BLACK GOLD.