Myanmar’s Manual Oil Drills

Myanmar is rich in natural resources, but much of this remains untapped. Political sanctions imposed by the military regime that ruled the country for 50 years kept off foreign investment, hindering the modernization of the oil and gas industry. With the big players out of the scene, enterprising locals are raking in the profits by utilizing crude equipment and manual labour consisting of thousands of workers.

To drill a well, workers first set up a tripod of bamboo poles or tree trunks 40 or 50 feet high with a pulley affixed at the top to lower a drilling tool into the earth. Workers then spend hours pounding the tool into the earth to reach the oil before hauling it out with a hand crank. Despite the hard work and inefficient drilling rigs, independent drillers are pumping up up to 300 barrels of crude oil a day, worth $3,000, which is sold off to local refineries. The profits have sparked an oil rush akin to the one that happened in America more than a hundred years ago.