Evidence for the presence of hydrocarbons in Cuba is extremely widespread. Tar deposits, bituminous limestones, gas and oil seeps, and small producing fields are common throughout the island. Asphalt deposits were commercially mined at the turn of the century. The estimated daily production of the island was 34,000 BOPD for 1999 (Torres, 1999). However, to this date, despite the efforts by major western oil companies prior to the late 1950s (such as Chevron, Esso, Gulf, Shell, and Texaco), and those of many independents, plus the Eastern Block-Cuban cooperation since then, no major hydrocarbon accumulation has been found.
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The geology of Cuba has been a challenge to geologists because of features such as the presence of well-preserved Jurassic ammonites, the rich Tertiary foraminiferal faunas (including remarkable Paleogene orbitoids), the gigantic Upper Cretaceous rudistids, the spectacular limestone Mogotes of Pinar del Rio, the extensive outcrops of ultrabasic igneous rocks, the chromite and manganese deposits, and the extraordinary structural complexity. In addition to these features, the numerous petroleum seeps, many of them coming out of basic igneous rock, have attracted much attention.
It is interesting to read early papers by reputable geologists such as E. DeGoyler (1918), J. W. Lewis (1932), or R. H. Palmer (1945), and to realize how little was known or understood about the geology of the southern portion of the North American continent in the early part of the 20th century.
Much early understanding of the geology of Cuba resulted from a series of studies conducted between 1936 and 1946 by the University of Utrecht, Holland, under the direction of L. M. R. Rutten. Some resultant publications are Rutten (1936), MacGillavry (1937), Thiadens (1937a, b), Vermut (1937), van Wessen (1943), Keijzer (1945), Hermes (1945), and De Vletter (1946). These authors outlined the components of a classic geosyncline. Between the late 1930s and late 1950s, Cuban geologists and paleontologists, such as P. R. Ortega y Ros, J. Broderman, P. Bermudez, and J. F. Albear, published several articles about the island’s geology.
The search for oil has contributed significantly to the present understanding of the island’s geology.