40 Years of Refining at Lago

Special Issue Aruba Esso News

January 29, 1969

.The following was transcribed by Stan Norcom from the original publication

The Early Years of Lago (p.4)
In 1924, the Lago Petroleum Corporation, a producing company in Lake Maracaibo, sent Captain Robert Rodger and Mr. J.O. Boyd to secure a terminal in Curacao, Paraguana, (Venezuela), Aruba, or any other suitable place. In July 1924, these two men were joined in Curacao by Captain W. Clark.
Their objective was to find the most suitable terminal site, which would offer possibilities for future expansion. Curacao and the coast of Paraguana were investigated. After looking into the possibilities of these two places, the part turned to San Nicolas Bay in Aruba. They were accommodated in the "White House", the only house at the time close to the San Nicolas Bay. After two weeks at San Nicolas studying the possibility of dredging a channel to the sea, their unanimous opinion was that this was the best place. Messrs. Rodger, Clark and Boyd confidently recommended it to the interested parties of the London head office.
The land for the terminal presented an ideal site. One outstanding advantage was the distance between Aruba and Lake Maracaibo, which is considerably shorter than the run to Curacao. This meant a saving each year of many thousands of miles for crude supply ships.
In October 1924, it was finally decided that San Nicolas Bay would be the terminal of the Lago interests. A month earlier, on August 12, 1924, the Lago Oil & Transport Company, Limited was incorporated in Canada.
Transshipment Station
Two small tankers, SS "Francunion" and SS "Inverampton", began transporting oil to Aruba in 1924. "Inverampton", brought the first shipment of crude oil in Oranjestad Harbor on September 13, 1924. As dredging of a channel through the reef (now the east entrance) and building of tanks were in progress in San Nicolas, it became necessary to place a depot ship off the town of Oranjestad. This depot ship, the SS "Invergarry", held this station from November 1924 to July 1925. Early in 1925 the Lago Shipping Company, incorporated in London, came into existence to operate the ‘Lake ‘ tankers. The Lago Shipping Company was sold to Standard Oil (New Jersey) in 1946 and its name was changed to Esso Transportation. This company continued to operate tankers the Lake-Lago service until 1952.
In July 1925, the interest of the British Company in the "Lago" companies were sold to the Pan American Petroleum Corporation. Meanwhile, efforts were redoubled to open up San Nicolas Bay. Credited with engineering work for dredging and building of the terminal was A.M. McKean. Another engineer who arrived in June 1927 and was charged with erecting boilers and general machinery was Fred Penny. He later became plant superintendent. Mr. Penny’s assistant was Ralph Watson.
At the opening of the harbor of San Nicolas on November 17, 1927, the terminal had eight crude tanks of 70,000 barrels ready for operation. It was a gala day for San Nicolas Harbor. The honor fell on the SS "R.W. Stewart: with Captain Larsen to perform the opening ceremony. San Nicolas Harbor could then accommodate two large ocean tankers and five small Lake tankers.
San Nicolas Bay continued to operate s a transshipping depot for crude oil through 1928, loading four or five ships a week with oil brought in by the steadily increasing number of lake tankers.
A Refinery in Aruba (p.6)
In July 1927, the Manufacturing Department of the Pan American Petroleum & Transport Company was reorganized by the transfer of Thomas S. Cooke, Lloyd G. Smith and Donald J. Smith from the Standard Oil Company (Indiana). Their assignment was to select a refinery site and design a refinery somewhere in the Maracaibo district for refining Venezuelan crude oil. In August 1927, Mr. P.H. Harwood, vice president of Pan American Petroleum & Transport Company, escorted this group to Aruba.
Originally, there was no thought of building such a refinery in Aruba. The whole party proceeded to Maracaibo to inspect several locations along the Lake Maracaibo shore. After the inspection, the party returned to Aruba. Careful consideration was then again given to an Aruban location. The result was that the present site was eventually selected and design work was started in the later part of 1927. Most of the observations on the terrain were made from the highest top, the company water tower. The approximate locations of stills, tanks, powerhouse and other facilities were picked out during this elevated conference.
It was in February 1928 that the final approval came to actually start work. On February 24, 1928 a small group arrived in Aruba to bread ground. All energy was devoted toward the construction and completion of the powerhouse and seven topping stills. The powerhouse started in December 1928. January 29, 1929 is recorded s the date the first topping still began operations.
There are 20 pages in all in this publication
-The First Ten Years…. 1929-1939
-The Second Decade…. 1939-1949
-The Third Decade…. 1949-1959
-The Most Recent Decade…. 1959-1969