India June crude imports hit 8-month low as virus dampens demand

India’s crude oil imports in June dropped to their lowest level in eight months as refiners cut down processing in the face of a tumultuous second wave of the coronavirus, government data showed.

Crude oil imports rose in June by 16.3% to 15.90 million tonnes from a year earlier, but dropped 7.8% from May, data on the website of the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) showed.

“Refiners reduced runs after the COVID-19 cases increased in April-May, which might have contributed to lower imports,” said Refinitiv analyst Ehsan Ul Haq, adding that the nation’s vaccine programme is the key to future demand.

“If we don’t see another wave, demand will recover significantly in the fourth quarter of this year.”

India’s coronavirus caseload of 31.48 million infections is the world’s second-highest behind the United States.

Oil product imports rose 11% to 3.51 million tonnes from the previous month, while refined products exports slipped about 4% to 5.51 million tonnes in June.

Diesel shipments were down 3.8% from the preceding month, while petrol exports slipped 14%.

India imports and exports refined fuels as it holds surplus refining capacity.

India's crude oil imports extend slide in June

The world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer, India has decided to commercialise half of its current strategic petroleum reserves as the nation looks to enhance private participation in the building of new storage facilities, two government sources told Reuters.

Indian refiners’ crude throughput in June was little changed from the previous month when it fell to multi-month lows, data showed last week. [O/INDIA1]

Julie Torgersrud from Rystad Energy’s Oil Market team expects crude processing by Indian refiners to grow by 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) in third quarter following a drop in second quarter.

“However, we still expect India’s refinery runs in 2021 to average nearly 300,000 bpd below pre-pandemic levels as the lag in jet fuel recovery keeps runs in check.”

Reporting by Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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