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Burmah Oil Company Limited


BURMAH OIL COMPANY LIMITED. This, the great est British petroleum company, had its origin in the oil works at Rangoon founded in 1871 by a Glasgow merchant. David Sime Cargill. From very small beginnings the undertaking has grown until in 1928 it had an issued capital of £I0,868,000, standing at a heavy premium in the stock markets, and a direct net crude oil production in Burma of some 800,000 tons per annum, to say nothing of its interest in other oil lands in India and elsewhere.

The Burmese oil deposits have long been known, and were worked in a primitive way for possibly two centuries prior to 1871. The late Lord Curzon's saying that the Allies floated to victory on a sea of oil was by no means the earliest reference to the military uses of petroleum. We find that in the Burmese War of 1825 the native oil was used as a military weapon ; we are told that the fire rafts then employed by the Burmese in their attack on British vessels in Rangoon harbour were "made of bamboos firmly fixed together, between every two or three of which lines of earthenware jars filled with petroleum and cotton were secured." It is also on record that in the early days of Mr. Cargill's enter prise, his refinery at Rangoon received its crude oil by this same method of rafts and jars floated down the river Irrawaddy from Zenangyoung to Rangoon.

The first machine-drilled oil well in Burma was completed in 1889. The growth since then may be gauged by the fact that dur ing one month in 1928 seven times as much crude oil was handled by the company as during the whole year 1889.

Burma crude petroleum has the advantage that it requires little or no refining. It follows that the company is not a producer of fuel oil ; Burma crude is relatively too limited in supply and too valuable to be sold at fuel oil prices.

It is notable that the company, in association with the Tata Iron and Steel Company, founded in India after the World War a suc cessful native tin-plate industry. The risks were enormous, but technical success has been achieved, and production has reached over 800,000 boxes per annum ; there is good reason to suppose that the industry will become permanent and a trade of great na tional importance established.

Returning to the company's primary product, its oil operations now give direct employment to over 40,000 people, the bulk of whom it houses and provides with medical and other services.

Hospitals and schools are run by the company in all its large cen tres of operation, and it has instituted provident funds and em ployees' profit-sharing schemes. (L. C. M.)

crude, petroleum, rangoon and burma