(Reuters) – India’s March crude oil imports rose at the slowest pace this year, while refined product exports also rose but at a lower rate as some refineries cut back crude processing as the coronavirus outbreak crushed demand for fuel.
Crude oil imports in March rose 1.8% to 19.52 million tonnes from a year earlier, having risen 9% in the previous month, according to data on the website of Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) on Friday.
Oil products imports rose more than 7% to 3.92 million tonnes year-on-year, which was the lowest year-on-year percentage rise since January 2019. Oil product exports rose 7.4% to 5.93 million tonnes, sharply down from a 21.4% rise in February.
Exports of diesel were also affected by the coronavirus crisis and rose only 11.7% in March, the lowest year-on-year increase since August. Petrol exports declined 5.2% in March as the virus hit economic activity and fuel demand for transportation globally.
Asia’s third-biggest economy imports and exports refined fuels as it has surplus refining capacity.
Rystad Energy expects COVID-19 to remove nearly 4 million bpd of road diesel demand worldwide in the second quarter, and diesel demand in other sectors to drop by another 1.2 million bpd.
India on Friday extended its nationwide lockdown for another two weeks from May 4, but said it would allow “considerable relaxations” in lower-risk districts. The lockdown was put in place on March 24.
The country’s crude processing in March fell 5.7% from a year earlier, the most since September, as the coronavirus crisis and travel restrictions to curb its spread dented fuel demand and forced refineries to cut output.
India’s annual fuel demand in 2019/20 also grew at its lowest rate in more than two decades.
(Reporting by Nakul Iyer and Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M. and Jane Merriman)