Exploration for oil in Belize was initiated with an airplane based survey carried out by Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc for the Shell Overseas Exploration Company. This work was conducted in the Iguana Creek Area in 1938. However, the first oil well was not drilled until 1955 when Gulf Oil drilled a well in the Yalbac area. This company found small quantities of oil and proceeded to drill nine more wells in the 1950s. In 1962 Phillips drilled a 16,000 ft well offshore. The Anschutz Corporation also drilled eleven wells in the 1970s. Other companies that explored for oil in Belize in the 1970s included Occidental, Phillips Petroleum, Chevron, Esso and Placid. In the 1980s and 1990s, smaller companies also did some explorations but were unable to find commercial quantities of crude.
The first commercial discovery of oil in Belize was struck by Belize Natural Energy in 2005 in the Iguana Creek area. BNE had approached oil exploration with an inclination to accept medium sized or small reserves. The Spanish Lookout field was estimated to contain 16 million barrels at a depth of 3,000 feet. The annual revenues from oil have increased from the $ 88 M earned in 2006 to over $291 million in 2011.