India's gasoline sales jump to pre-covid levels in September, diesel improvesIndia's gasoline sales jump to pre-covid levels in September, diesel improves
A nozzle pumps petrol into a vehicle at a fuel station in Mumbai

By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian state refiners’ annual gasoline sales rose to pre-COVID levels in September and a fall in diesel sales slowed, as the loosening of lockdown restrictions boosted energy consumption and economic activity, provisional industry data showed.

Last month, gasoline sales by state refiners saw their first annual growth since March, underpinned by a gradual lifting of coronavirus curbs even as India suffers one of the highest infection rates in the world.

India’s fuel consumption- a proxy for oil demand- was hard hit by a nation-wide lockdown imposed in March to stem the spread of covid-19.

Indian state retailers sold 2.2 million tonnes of gasoline last month, up 1.85% from a year ago as the sale of passenger cars surged and as motorists increasingly rely on personal vehicles to commute amid rising coronavirus cases. Gasoline sales were up 10.5% from August.

Gasoil sales were at 4.84 million tonnes, down 7.3% from a year ago but up 22% from August, according to data provided by the country’s top refiner Indian Oil Corp.

A continued recovery in gasoline and gasoil sales, which accounts for over half of the refined fuel consumption in India, would help improve refinery runs further.

IOC’s crude processing last month improved due to a recovery in fuel demand, its chairman M.S.Vaidya said, betting that fuel appetite could return to pre-covid levels this quarter.

State companies IOC.NS, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat Petroleum own about 90% of India’s retail fuel outlets.

State retailers sold 2.3 million tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas in September, 5.3% higher than last year and up 3.6% from August.

Jet fuel sales last month rose 23.4% from August to about 290,000 tonnes, but fell 53% from a year ago as curbs on air travel remained in place.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)