By K. Sathya Narayanan
(Reuters) – India’s crude oil processing in April slumped by 28.8% from a year earlier, its biggest drop since at least 2003, as a nationwide lockdown weighed on fuel demand and forced refiners to cut production.
Refiners processed about 14.75 million tonnes or 3.60 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil last month, government data showed.
The lockdown and travel curbs aimed at stemming spread of COVID-19 since March 25 forced people to stay home, cutting India’s fuel demand by 45.8% in April.
Falling demand led Indian refiners and gas importers to declare force majeure on imports.
Refiners, struggling to store oil and products, had to sell some oil to the federal government which used it to fill strategic storage.
India has extended its nationwide restrictions to May 31, but relaxed rules in areas with lower numbers of cases leading to some recovery in fuel demand and refiner runs this month.
Indian refiners operated at about 72% of their overall capacity of about 5 million bpd, the data showed.
Indian Oil Corp, the country’s top refiner, operated its plant at about 53% capacity, while use at the refineries owned by its subsidiary Chennai Petroleum plunged to about 33% of capacity, the data showed.
Reliance Industries Ltd, operator of the world’s biggest refining complex, operated its export-focussed 700,000 bpd Jamnagar refinery at about 87% capacity.
Nayara Energy, part owned by Russia’s Rosneft, curtailed runs at its 400,000 bpd Vadinar refinery to 85% of capacity.
India, which imports over 80% of its oil needs, produced 6.4% less oil in April than a year earlier at around 2.55 million tonnes or 620,000 bpd, data showed.
Natural gas output fell 18.6% to 2.16 billion cubic metres, data showed.
(Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; editing by Nidhi Verma and Jason Neely)