The history of hydrocarbons in Peru goes back to the times of the Incas. In modern times, the first oil well drilled in Peru, and also in South America, was in the city of Zorritos, Tumbes, in 1863, just 4 years after drilling the first oil well in the United States.
From time immemorial, tar was extracted in various parts of Peru; La Breita and La Brea in the Department of Piura, Lobos de Tierra (Department of Lambayeque), La Brea de Chumpi and others in the Department of Junín and Puno. The most important of all these deposits is La Brea, located 18 kilometers east of Negritos and at the foot of the hills of Cerros de Amotape where large quantities of the product accumulated, as a result of the natural evaporation of the oil that emerges in that place through fractures in the strata. The Indians exploited the copé on a large scale, as they called the tar, and as it was in a liquid state, they finished the evaporation in clay pots which remain as witnesses, innumerable remains which form important mounds, and that give the measure of the intensity of the old farm. The copé was mainly used for waterproofing of clay receptacles, embalming of mummies, and other uses. During the colony the exploitation was even more active, because the caulking of boats consumed a good amount of tar. So much was taken out, that the deposit has finally been exhausted and the thick oil does not form anymore the great lakes that were seen before at the surface level.
The existence of mineral oil in the North of Peru was revealed at all times not only by the emanations that we have mentioned in La Brea and La Breita, but also in others with a lighter oil such as in the Copé gorge, tributary of the Tucillal in the Zorritos region, and whose name comes from the Quechua word for that substance.
Both coastal basins located on the continent and those located on the marine continental shelf have been explored. In the early days, the emphasis was on the continental region of the north of the country, but advances in geological concepts and exploration technology gave indications that in most of the offshore basins there were still unexplored oil systems, located beyond 120 meter isobath that has been the limit for exploration. The oil price instability is the current factor that limits exploration in the offshore basins.