Tim Charlton, Banda Arc Geologist

History of petroleum exploration in Timor-Leste

This history is based largely on English-language reports. I would be interested to hear from anybody with additional information, particularly from Timorese and Portuguese (or Dutch/Indonesian?) sources. Please also tell me about any errors. So far I have only covered the period until about 1950. I hope eventually to extend this up to 1976, so any information on the later period would also be gratefully received. I have not yet found copies of the early reports by Seelhorst and Duff, and would be grateful if anybody could suggest where I might obtain these.

More will follow as I complete research on other areas


The Pualaca oil seeps, the main natural seeps most easily accessible from the north coast of Timor, were the first to attract foreign interest with regard to their economic possibilities. Indigenous exploitation of the seeps no doubt goes back into distant history, but the earliest record of Pualaca oil being used beyond the immediate area is a report that in 1884 oil from Pualaca was being used on special occasions to illuminate Dili(1). At about this time oil was beginning to be exploited worldwide, and the first commercial oilfield in Sumatra was discovered in 1885(2). In Timor a licence to undertake delineation investigations of oil at Pualaca was obtained by a Hong Kong-resident Portuguese citizen João Antonio Barreto in 1890(28), valid for a period of two years. In 1891 a German civil engineer, Dr. Seelhorst Emersen(10), produced a 'Report on a Geological Expedition to Timor'(1) which apparently detailed investigations of  the Pualaca area [but I have not yet located a copy of this report]. In 1892 a Manila-based English engineer, W.A.Duff, put down a shallow bore less than 30 feet deep at Pualaca, from which some 470 gallons (~2100 litres) of crude petroleum were taken in a few hours(1).

Samples of Duff's oil were examined by English petroleum specialist T. Boverton Redwood, who reported that 'Results of analyses on crude oils from Pualaca cannot be regarded otherwise than of a most favourable character. ... On the whole, I regard these samples of crude petroleum as of a remarkably high quality. They yield at least as much Kerosene as the best descriptions of United States crude petroleum, together with a large proportion of paraffin, and in comparison to standard Baku crude, the comparison is still more striking. In terms of the proportion of paraffin present, the samples resemble the crude petroleum of Java'(32).

Having established his rights of discovery in 1892(31), the Pualaca concession was awarded to Barreto in 1896, and then the same year this was transferred to an English-registered company, the Oversea Exploration and Finance Association Limited(29, 30, 33). But by 1904 the company had not fulfilled its contract conditions to the satisfaction of the Portuguese government, and the licence was annulled(30).

At the time of a visit to Pualaca by Portuguese military officer General José Emilio de Sant'Ana da Cunha Castel Branco in 1906, a single shallow borehole had been drilled by the former concessionaires in 1898. The borehole was reportedly situated next to the bed of the Mota Mutim river, on the left bank. It was, when viewed in 1906, only some 6.5m deep with oil reportedly filtering from the walls of the bore. The bore had apparently been made with a 3 inch diameter drill, but the hole had widened considerably by that time due to collapse. Total production of oil from various pits and seeps was at this time estimated at about 100 litres per day(30).

The Pualaca concession was re-opened to competitive tendering in late 1904(30, 34), but was not awarded(35). In 1907 the concession was again gazetted(36), and  the following year was awarded to Ronald Henry Silley, a British businessman resident in Lisbon(37). In 1908 the concession was transferred to Companhia Commercial Petrolifera das Colonias Portuguesas(38). Although in name a Portuguese company, by 1911 the Pualaca concession seems to have been run by British interests by the name of Timor Oilfields Limited(39), represented by Ernest Green(4,5). The company's geologist at Pualaca was the 'genial'(5) Doctor Friedrich (Fritz) Weber, who made important contributions to the early geological study of Timor through his extensive fossil collections, described in the famous 'Palaeontologie von Timor' series of monographs.

When visited by the Portuguese Governor of Timor in September 1911, the concessionaires had drilled several shallow holes with some difficulty due to a lack of appropriate machinery. According to the Governor, the drill was turned by hand and therefore slowly, with a small number of percussions per hour. The deepest borehole that the company had drilled had reached a depth of 58.5m, and from it oil was extracted in buckets. The manager, Mr Green, informed the Governor that they planned to progress to deeper drilling through the construction of a derrick. But from January to May 1912 the Boaventura rebellion stopped any work at Pualaca, and the more powerful drill never arrived(30). Work was suspended on the concession in late 1911 and apparently never re-started(40). Timor Oilfields Limited was wound up in London in 1914(39).

A new application for a minerals and petroleum exploration concession including the Pualaca area was made by a British company, Fenchurch Trading Syndicate, in March 1914. The impetus for this company was an Australian geologist/consulting engineer Captain William Cairncross, who undertook geological fieldwork in Portuguese Timor in the period prior to World War 1(42). Having officially revoked the previous Pualaca concession(41), the Portuguese government awarded a new concession to Fenchurch Trading Syndicate in April 1915. By this time, however, World War 1 had commenced, and it was impossible for the company to undertake any exploration. A new concession covering an area of 600 square miles at Pualaca was ratified with Fenchurch Trading Syndicate in 1919. Anglo-Persian (forerunner of BP) examined the concession in 1920, but were reportedly not disposed to pursuing an interest(48). Fenchurch Trading Syndicate was wound up in 1931, apparently without having made any significant progress on exploration at Pualaca.

In the 1930s the Pualaca seeps yielded oil at a rate of 1500 litres/year(7).

Aliambata: The Timor Oil Company and related companies

Rather better documented is the exploration efforts of the Timor Oil Company and various related corporate manifestations. About 1901, Dr. James Elliott, a well-known Australian chemist, was a passenger on the steamer 'Empire' transitting Dili. At a stopover on the coast of Timor 'several hours steaming from Dilly' [Manatuto?] he observed inflammable oil on the sea surface(8). On his return to Sydney, Elliott established a syndicate with the aim of exploring for oil in Portuguese Timor, and the Timor Oil Exploration Company Limited was incorporated in 1903(9). Three petroleum exploration concessions were granted to the company by the Portuguese government in 1908: the Meta Hou concession at the present-day village of Aliambata near Uatolari; and the Atalele and Ira-Muni concessions near the present village of Iraler, 8km north of Uatolari(8). I presume, although I have found no specific reference, that Timor Oil contracted Swiss geologist Dr Hans Hirschi to explore for hydrocarbons in 1904. Hirschi's work is generally considered the first geological investigation of East Timor, and his publications describe his visits to Pualaca and the Meta Hou, Atalele and Ira-Muni areas(10).

Timor Oil's focus was almost exclusively on the Meta Hou concession (and the subesequently-acquired Meta Hou No. 2 concession bordering the original concession to the east), where, from the descriptions of various visitors, it was almost impossible to put down a shallow hole without encountering oil (see below). The other two concessions at Atalele and Ira-Muni, and three subsequently-acquired concessions in the Irabin area near the present-day location of Uatocarabau, were only ever half-heartedly investigated. The first shallow exploratory drilling at Meta Hou, to about 30 feet depth, may have been put down as early as 1904(8), possibly at the time of Hirschi's visit. Subsequent drilling in 1910 or early 1911 was supervised by Alfred Warren, whose previous experience was drilling artesian water wells. Using a light-weight drilling rig more suited to water exploration, Warren managed to put down a hole to a depth of 290 feet at Meta Hou, encountering oil at 275 feet(8).

At about the same time shareholder discontent with the rather amateurish approach to exploration led to the reconstitution of the company as Timor Petroleum Concessions Limited. Elliott remained Chairman, but notably Arthur J. Staughton was one of the new directors, and subsequently appears to have been the main driving force behind the company. The Sydney-registered company commisioned H.G. Foxall, a geologist from the University of Sydney, to survey the concession(1,8). In September 1911 drilling commenced on a new well at a location chosen by Foxall. The well got down to 308ft with difficulty, but further deepening proved impossible. Another well was started on a nearby site which intersected oil at 27 feet depth, but the well was abandoned after only 4-5 more feet of drilling, perhaps because of the Boaventura rebellion. The well was completed, and all gear stored before Warren and his crew left the site in early January 1912 to travel to Dili and onward to Sydney(11).

After several delays a new field manager, a Mr McKowen or McKeown, arrived at the Meta Hou concession in 1914. Drilling recommenced using a new American plant that had been sent from Sydney –  'probably the best that, up to that time, had ever been assembled in the Southern Hemisphere'(8). At a depth of 320 feet the well struck a gusher, which caused the tools to be blown out of the hole and oil and water to be thrown into the air, over the top of the 74-foot high derrick, and on to an acre or so of surrounding land(8,1). Boring continued until a depth of  570 feet(12) or 665 feet(13) where the bearing rod broke off and the boring tool was damaged. It was necessary to get a specialist tool to grind out the broken parts, but due to the onset of World War I all shipping had ceased between Australia and Portuguese Timor. 'It would have been necessary to charter a special vessel, at a cost of something like £2,000, to carry a tool that would cost not more than £20 at the most. It became manifest to the directors that, with the continuance of the War, it was impossible to carry on the work. McKowen was, therefore, directed to cease work, and his engagement temporarily suspended'(8).

A reconstituted and reconstructed company, now known as Timor Oil Limited, was formed in 1916 with Sir Joseph Carruthers as chairman, and Arthur J. Staughton among the directors(8,1). An American consultant, B.K. Stroud, visited the concessions in 1916/7, and he seems to have been keen to promote the exploration in Timor to investors in the United States. This effort, however, was frustrated by US entry into World War I, and a consequent embargo on overseas investment. Efforts to raise exploration capital in Australia were stopped by the introduction of a similar embargo on foreign investment(8).

Immediately after the war, Timor Oil came close to negotiating a major tie-up with a subsidiary of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (forerunner of BP). Although this deal ultimately foundered, one consequence was that Dr Arthur Wade, an experienced oil industry advisor, visited and reviewed Timor Oil's concessions in 1920. The positive report produced by Wade the following year(14) was the impetus for new exploration momentum, and in 1925 the company was once more relaunched, this time as the Timor Petroleum Company, registered in Melbourne(15). A company representative, Mr. H. B. Manderson, was sent to Timor in order to obtain a large sample of oil from the company's concessions at Meta Hou(16). The following press reports document Manderson's growing excitement at his task:

- Arrived here June 26, bore and shallow shafts showing oil and gas freely. Have commenced bale bulk sample, depth 15ft. Petroleum gas-fires are used in the main camp at Vessoro, and are burning incessantly (Argus, Melbourne, 15/7/1925).

- 40 natives sinking shafts. Results to date confirm Dr. Wade's statement large area underlain bed of saturated oil. Have sunk seven shafts, deepest 30 feet, heavy oil encountered every shaft. A low level hole disclosed pure oil depth six feet. Have stored in drums during week 1000 gallons crude oil (Argus, Melbourne, 20/7/1925).

- During July 100 natives employed on 21 prospecting holes on sea frontage flat at Meta-Hou No. 1. Every hole without exception disclosed heavy oil issuing freely from the saturated bed at less than 12ft. in depth. Bed is a definite visible formation. It is a natural assumption that commercial production from this source alone is merely a matter of the number of holes and nominal cost. This should not be allowed to affect depth boring. Bulk sample, 5,000gal. crude oil, officially certified by district military commandant, awaiting shipment for Dilly. Intend to continue prospecting westerly direction of river flat as recommended by Dr. Wade. Oil revealed to date with extraordinary ease. Continuous production four original holes since year 1922-1923 (Argus, Melbourne, 17/8/1925).

- Prospecting up river flat, vicinity of Wade's shafts, revealed further petroleum gas blow; have lighted more than 60 petroleum fires by pushing bar few feet into ground, then applying match. In conjunction with crude oil exposed Meta Hou No. 1 this new find more than confirms Dr. Wade's recommendations (Argus, Melbourne, 27/8/1925).

The 5,000 gallon, 20 ton sample was duly shipped to Melbourne in 119 oil drums(16). The sample was displayed to the public in Melbourne, and the following advertisement (edited down here) was placed in the Argus newspaper, Melbourne, 18/11/1925:


Since Monday thousands have inspected this convincing proof of Timor's petroleum potentialities – a vast bulk sample of crude mineral oil literally thousands of times larger than any sample hitherto produced by an Australian Oil-prospecting enterprise.


In October last year Dr. Arthur Wade, the eminent British Oil Geologist (late Petroleum Technologist to the Commonwealth Government), confirmed the occurrence of oil on the properties of the Timor Petroleum Co. Ltd., in Timor – an island in the famous East Indian Oil zone, less than 400 miles north-west of Darwin, Northern Territory. In June of this year Mr. H. B. Manderson and party were despatched by the TIMOR PETROLEUM COMPANY LIMITED, of MELBOURNE, to investigate Dr. Wade's prediction of the existence of a saturated oil-bed on the company's concessions. Last month (October 25) Mr. Manderson returned from Timor bringing with him, in drums sealed and guaranteed by the Portuguese Government of Timor, a bulk sample of no less than 20 TONS OF CRUDE MINERAL OIL EXTRACTED FROM THE COMPANY'S CONCESSIONS. HERE ARE THE EXPLORER'S OWN WORDS ON THE OIL DISCOVERY EXTRACT FROM MR. MANDERSON'S REPORT:

'Rarely, if ever, has a geological prediction in respect to an oil-bearing area been so literally – even extravagantly – fulfilled as has Dr. Wade's theory of the existence of a saturated oil bed on your Mete-Hou concession in Timor. The twenty five shallow prospecting shafts sunk on this area, without exception, brought in oil at depths no greater than 9ft. to 12ft.

'The extraction of the 20-ton sample was simplicity itself. Once the surface capping was pierced and the limestone oil-saturated bed exposed, the oil welled up through the formation into the shafts, and was simply baled out by natives with kerosene tins.

'The size of the bulk sample was limited only by the number of drums available and by temporary exigencies of transport. A 2000-ton sample is as readily obtainable as 20 tons. The beach flat at the foot of the Mete-Hou concession is literally drenched with oil, and it can be said without exaggeration that the extraordinary showing of oil in the two dozen potholes along the frontage of your Mete-Hou property is altogether unique. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Both on the field and now, the temptation to use what might apt to be regarded as immoderate terms, in describing prospecting results, has had to be definitely resisted.

'Crude oil in quality is obtainable at shallow depths on your Mete Hou area, chiefly by reason of the unusual character of the geological formation, and while there is, in my opinion, decided promise of commercial production from this source alone, the truer value of recent prospecting operations is to emphasise the proved fact that your properties are oil-bearing, and to lend still greater significance to Dr. Wade's counsel in respect to drilling at depth.'



With the renewed interest and capital that this publicity engendered, a further phase of exploration and drilling was initiated under the field direction of Captain L.L. Wrathall, an experienced English geologist and driller. A new well on the Meta Hou concession was spudded in October 1926(18), and slow progress was made throughout the following year. Numerous oil and gas intervals were encountered, most notably at 195 feet depth, yielding 15 barrels of oil per day; and at 295 feet, which yielded 36 barrels per day(7). Between January 21 and February 12, 1927, the average production of oil from the well was five barrels per day(19). By late November 1927 the well had been drilled to 830 feet, but difficulties encountered at about this depth required the delivery of explosives, which did not arrive at the concession until the end of March 1928. "Much time appears to have been wasted owing to the lack of adequate fishing tools and rumour says that 'more whisky was spilled while waiting for a new bit to arrive than the total quantity of oil found'"(49). Tragically, Wrathall died of blackwater fever in the first week of April 1928, and this event seems to have largely derailed the exploration programme.

Staughton visited the concessions immediately following Wrathall's death(20), and reports suggest concerns over mismanagement and wasted money, whilst again a shortage of funds was evidently affecting the company, and there was discussion of selling or leasing the concessions(21). Reports on drilling progress under a new field manager, Mr Watson, and subsequently Mr Callow, become rather confusing, with descriptions of progress on the 'new well', the 'old well', and 'prospecting well nos. 1 & 2'(22). It is possible, but far from certain, that the 'prospecting wells' may refer to drilling on the Irabin concession, as a later report indicated that an abortive attempt at drilling by hand had been made at Irabin, but this was abandoned at a depth of just over 100 feet(7). By the end of 1928, one well, presumably the 'new well', had reached a depth of  897 feet(23). Beyond this little or no progress seems to have been made, despite efforts to overcome drilling difficulties, and the hole was abandoned in June 1929(24).

Attempts were made to raise more money for drilling, and to merge the company with other Australian oil exploration interests(25), but without success. Timor Petroleum Limited was formally wound up in 1931(26), but Staughton seems to have continued paying the annual lease rents on the concessions up until the end of 1936 on behalf of Timor Oil Limited. In 1937/8 the Portuguese authorities refused to accept the lease rent, apparently deeming the leases to have lapsed due to lack of exploration activity(27).

Early exploration in the Suai area

The earliest record I have found for hydrocarbon exploration in the Suai area is from 1910 when Hong Kong-registered Companhia Internacional de Petroleo was granted a licence for the extraction and sale of petroleum from three deposits, two of which were in the Suai area at localities named as Ray-Naco [=Ranoco, Ranuc or Weimarok] and We-Foco [presumably Matai](50, 30). Drilling equipment was shipped from Hong Kong in 1911(51), and drilling commenced at Ranoco later that year. However, the Boaventura Rebellion at the end of 1911/early 1912 interrupted operations before any depth was reached. Drilling was again attempted in 1920 following the First World War, but activities were terminated after four months due to sickness among the drilling staff(7). Odd fragments of abandoned drilling equipment can still be seen near the oil seeps at Ranoco/Weimarok.

A separate exploration licence was granted in 1912 to Antonio Joaquim around Culite village(52, 30) – presumably the area of the two active mud volcanoes at Kulit about 10km west of Suai. It appears, however, that work on this concession never proceeded beyond basic reconnaissance.

1930s and pre-War politics

The primary driver of geological exploration in the 1930s was the Allied Mining Corporation (AMC), headed by Belgian citizen Serge Wittouck. The company had its roots in Asia (Hong Kong and Manila), and was strongly suspected by the British and Australian governments of being a front for Japanese interests(1). Wittouck himself was described as an oil company promoter(55) but also as 'a crook and a swindler'(56) and 'a most unscrupulous financier'(57). Nevertheless AMC produced valuable petroleum and mining geological results through the deployment during 1936 of a team of nineteen technical experts(58) of whom seven were geologists or mining engineers(7). Wittouck's efforts to obtain petroleum and mining concessions were repeatedly frustrated by lobbying of the Portuguese authorities by the British government who wanted to prevent Japan expanding its influence into Timor.

To thwart the awarding of an exploration licence to AMC, the British and Australian governments attempted to bolster Staughton's lease claims (see the Aliambata section above), and when that was unsuccessful supported the transfer of the leases to the established Australian oil company Oil Search Ltd. in partnership with a new company, Oil Concessions. A key figure in Oil Concessions was Alec Dodson who was to have a major involvement in the establishment of Timor Oil after World War 2. Dodson, together with Portuguese engineer Jose de Veiga Lima, established the Portuguese-registered Companhia Ultramarina do Petroleos (CUP)  in June 1939, but Oil Search withdrew their interest, leaving the poorly financed Oil Concessions as the sole backer of the new company. As World War 2 commenced in Europe, the Portuguese authorities offered CUP a concession covering either the eastern or western half of Portuguese Timor, divided by the 126°E meridian. By agreement this was modified to 125°50'E in order to bring Pualaca into the eastern area, and a decree awarding the eastern area to CUP was signed in November 1939(59).

Having spent more than £50,000 on exploration(49) and under threat of legal action over a claim that his company had already obtained exclusive rights to exploration in Portuguese Timor(60), Serge Wittouck committed suicide in Dili in 1940.

By early 1940 it was clear that Oil Concessions would not have the finance to adequately explore the eastern concession. In order to avoid the concession lapsing, the British and Australian governments arranged for CUP to be taken over by the Anglo-Iranian, Shell and Standard Vacuum oil companies(61). The involvement of these three major oil companies appears to have been rather grudging and only in support of the war effort rather than for the exploration potential of the concession. Nevertheless, Veiga Lima and M.L.E.J. Brouwer, a Dutch geologist from Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij (Shell), arrived in Timor during April 1941(62). There was considerable suspicion that Brouwer was a Nazi sympathiser(63), but a later memo indicated that 'Brouwer is a geologist for cover only'(64) suggesting that his primary role was not exploration. There is no further indication of any geological work undertaken in the eastern concession up until the Japanese occupation of Portuguese Timor in February 1942.

1942-1945: Japanese occupation

Prior to World War 2 the presence of untapped oil reserves in Portuguese Timor was seen as the most likely reason for Japan showing special interest in the territory(65). However, an Australian military assessment from immediately after the war indicates that this may have been only part of the reason. According to a memorandum, approximately 40 Japanese personnel with limited technical equipment arrived in Portuguese Timor from Sumatra on an unknown date to carry out an experimental oil survey. Oil was found at Pualaca ('Cribas'), Suai and Aliambata. Combined production of Suai and Pualaca was approximately 200 barrels per month, but no serious effort was made to attain maximum production as the Japanese already had adequate stocks of oil fuel. Suai produced a greater quantity than Pualaca, but the latter was a better quality oil. Aliambata was found by the Japanese only shortly before the end of the war. No bore was sunk at Aliambata, but superficial examination indicated that it was the best in quality and greatest in quantity of the three places(66).

Late 1940s: renewed exploration

Immediately following the Second World War the Australian consul in Dili, Charles Eaton, visited various localities around Portuguese Timor, giving brief descriptions the oil facilities at that time. It was reported that the oilfield at Pualaca consisted of three wells about 30 feet deep, each dug on the banks of the Pualaca stream. The oil was pumped straight from the well to a basic refinery [reportedly] constructed by the Japanese [but probably already existing before the war] and then barrelled. Each barrel (45 gallons) was then lashed to poles and carried by 20 labourers to Laclubar along a mountainous track of some 17km, a day's journey. From Laclubar the drums were transported by truck to Dili where the oil was sold at approximately 40 cents a litre (three shillings and fourpence a gallon) as kerosene. Under the prevailing conditions it was stated that 25,000 litres a month could be obtained from the wells(47). This refinery at Pualaca remained active until 1976, and was in operation under Fretilin control until the Timorese resistance forces were overrun by the invading Indonesian army.

At Aliambata the site consisted of two wells. One well contained a central tubing which was plugged, but was full of oil and water at a depth of approximately 15 feet below the surface. The other well some 150 feet away contained oil right up to the surface with, it appeared, water [gas?] bubbles arising in the centre. It appeared that the two wells had not been worked for a considerable time. It also seemed doubtful to the consul that the Japanese carried out any exploitation. Considerable drilling equipment remained, but this was being overgrown by jungle(67).

At Suai, three wells had been dug along the banks of the Matai stream. The wells were approximately 25 feet deep and contained oil with apparently no water, while along the banks of the stream a considerable quantity of conglomerate was impregnated with oil(68).

Immediately following the war negotiations commenced to re-establish CUP's rights to the eastern concession. Through the 1939 award, the company had exclusive rights initially for five years and then for another five years on condition that the company had spent not less than £50,000 on prospecting(69). In November 1946 the Portuguese government confirmed that a moratorium on the exploration obligations had been extended until August 1947(70). Shell (BPM) geologists E.F. Escher and H.R. Grunau undertook an extensive geological survey of the eastern concession between July 1947 and May 1948, with a gravity survey by G. de Snoo commencing in June 1948(71). Escher's report(72), submitted in May or June 1948, was unenthusiastic regarding prospectivity, and the UK government was informed that the three parent companies planned to abandon the concession in July 1948(73). There were, however, suspicions that the companies had already decided to abandon the concessions before Escher's report was submitted. According to an Australian government memorandum, 'Comparison of maps forwarded to the Department of External Affairs with those submitted by Dr Escher proves conclusively that Escher withheld information which should properly have been supplied to the UK and Commonwealth governments. ... we must recognise the possibility that Escher's report was so framed as to provide adequate grounds for claiming repayment from the Portuguese Government of the deposit made by CUP'(74). The 1941 takeover of CUP by Anglo-Iranian, Shell and Standard Vacuum was based on the Australian and British governments advancing a sum of £10,000, of which £6,000 was repayable if, after assessment of the prospectivity, the companies felt that the results justified further exploration prospecting or exploitation(75). Consequently it was in the interests of the companies to come to a negative conclusion on the prospectivity in order to avoid reimbursing the governments.

Having passed control of CUP to the Anglo-Iranian – Shell – Standard Vacuum consortium in 1940, Alec Dodson began to explore new commercial possibilities in Portguese Timor during late 1946(78). The Australian consul in Dili put the Dodson Trading Co. in contact with Timor Oil, who were at that time also trying to re-establish their lapsed rights in Timor(79). Dodson made a formal offer to purchase the shares in CUP in mid-1948(80), but the Portuguese government withheld consent(81), and the company renounced its concession and went into liquidation in 1949(82).

In December 1947 the Superior Oil Company of California was awarded the western petroleum concession covering the western half of Portuguese Timor including the Oecusse enclave(76). The concession was granted for five years, with the right to renew for five more if the concession had been prospected intensively – spending US$200,000 on exploration(77). In March 1948 an American geologist A.E. Feldmeyer and an Australian B. Jones commenced field studies, which continued until September of that year(53). Their assessment of the acreage was, however, negative, and the concession was abandoned early in 1949(54).


1. Gunn, 1999: Timor Loro Sae: 500 Years
2. R.W. van Bemmelen (1949). The Geology ofIndonesia. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.
3. Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 10/5/1901.
4. New York Times, 11/4/1910.
5. Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 2/12/1910.
6. Amoseas (1995). Soe PSC, final relinquishment report.
7. Allied Mining Corporation (1937). Exploration of Portuguese Timor. Kolff & Co., Batavia & Amsterdam.
8. Petroleum Oil. The history of oil exploration in the island of Timor prepared from the records of various companies in New South Wales (Australia) (1932).
9. National Library of Australia records.
10. H. Hirschi, 1907. Zur Geologie und Geographie von Portugiesisch Timor. Neues Jahrbuch fur Mineralogie, Geologie und Palaontologie, Abhandlungen  24, 460-474. (and) H. Hirschi, 1933. Eine geologische Expedition in Portugiesisch Timor. Mitteilungen der Naturwissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft in Thun, 3, 25-41.
11. Report by Alfred Warren dated 1/2/1912, in (8).
12. Depth as reported by Arthur Wade, 10/1/1921, in (8).
13. Depth as reported by B.K. Stroud, 3/7/1917, in (8).
14. Report by Arthur Wade, dated 10/1/1921, in (8).
15. Argus, Melbourne, 28/3/1925.
16. Argus, Melbourne, 11/6/1925.
17. Argus, Melbourne, 9/10/1925.
18. Argus, Melbourne, 29/10/1926.
19. Argus, Melbourne, 20/5/1927.
20. Argus, Melbourne, 20/4/1928.
21. Argus, Melbourne, 21/7/1928.
22. Argus, Melbourne, 8/9/1928; 21/9/1928; 6/10/1928; 20/10/1928.
23. Argus, Melbourne, 18/12/1928.
24. Argus, Melbourne, 14/6/1929.
25. Argus, Melbourne, 16/1/1929; 22/8/1929.
26. Argus, Melbourne, 3/8/1931.
27. Letter from A.J. Staughton and the Board of Timor Oil Ltd. to Secretary, Dept. of External Affairs, Canberra, 21/5/1946. Australian National Archive.
28. Boletim da Provincia de Macau e Timor, 11/12/1890
29. Boletim Oficial, 25/6/1904
30. Ministerio das Colonias, Portugal, 1915. Provincia de Timor. Informações relitivas aos jazigos de petróeo e à agricultura. Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa, 195+pp.
31. Boletim da Provincia de Macau e Timor, 28/7/1892
32. T. Boverton Redwood unpublished report, 22/12/1892;  reproduced in (30).
33. Maria Eugénia Mata: Foreign Joint-stock-Companies in Nineteenth-century Portuguese Colonies. Paper presented at Section 11 of the International Economic History Association Congress of Helsinki, August, 2006-02-03
34. Boletim Oficial, 3/12/1904
35. Boletim Oficial, 16/9/1905
36. Boletim Oficial 24/8/1907; and in English 9/11/1907
37. Boletim Oficial, 1/8/1908
38. Boletim Oficial, 28/1/1911, Boletim Oficial, 28/10/1911
39. London Gazette, 17/7/1914 (Company winding-up order)
40. Boletim Oficial, 23/12/1911; Boletim Oficial, 29/6/1912
41. Boletin Oficial, 29/5/1915
42. Undated report in the Australian government archives
43. Report in Australian government archives, 23/1/1941
44. Audley-Charles, M.G. The Geology of Portuguese Timor. Memoir of the Geological Society of London, 4
45. Cross, I. 2000, The search for oil and gas on East Timor. Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain Newsletter, February 2000, p.62-66.
46. Australian government memo, 19/12/1945
47. Australian consulate at Dili, letter in Australian government archive, 19/11/1946
48. Memo in the Australian government archive, undated but November 1926
49. Consular report by E.T. Lambert, 29/12/1937, Australian government archives
50. Boletim Oficial, 31/12/1910
51. The Advertiser, Adelaide, 13/3/1911
52. Boletim Oficial, 20/4/191.
53. Australian consular memos, Dili, 30/3/1948 & 16/9/1948
54. Australian consular memo, Dili, 23/4/1949
55. Australian archive document dated 23/3/1936
56. UK government memo, in Australian archive, 23/4/1940
57. Australian DFAT memorandum 49, 9/7/1937
58. Straits Times, 1/5/1936
59. Letter from Dodson to Board of Oil Concessions, dated 1/3/1940, in Australian archive
60. Australian government memo, 15/2/1940, in Australian archive
61. Australian government memo, 4/3/1941, in Australian archive
62. Notes from report by C.H. Archer, BritishConsul, on visit to Timor 26/3-29/4/1941, in Australian archive
63. Australian government telegram, 8/11/1941, in Australian archive
64. Australian government memo, 25/11/1941, in Australian archive
65. Australian government memo, 5/3/1940, in Australian archive
66. Australian government memo, 19/12/1945, in Australian archive
67. Australian Consular letter, Dili, 14/6/1946, in Australian archive
68. Australian Consular letter, Dili, 4/11/1946, in Australian archive
69. Australian DFAT memorandum 98, 1940, in Australian archive
70. Australian government memo, 8/11/1946, in Australian archive
71. Dili consulate memo, 22/6/1948, in Australian archive
72. E.F. Escher, May 1948. Summary geological report, CUP concession, Portuguese Timor
73. Letter from Anglo-Saxon Oil Company [Shell] to UK government, 5/7/1948, in Australian archive
74. Australian government memo, 3/11/1948, in Australian archive
75. Australian government memo, 9/3/1948, in Australian archive
76. Australian government memo, 22/12/1947, in Australian archive
77. Australian government memo, 14/2/1948, in Australian archive
78. Australian government memo to Dili consul, 13/12/1946
79. Letter Dili consul to Johnson Edwards & Co. 29/1/1947, Australian government archives
80. Letter in Australian government archives, 30/7/1948
81. Memo in Australian government archives, 22/9/1948
82. Dili consulate memo in Australian government archives, 20/9/1949


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