India’s crude imports rebounded 3.9% to 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2021, the data showed, but remained below pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Imports are expected to rise further this year as fuel demand is recovering, with the government resisting lockdowns despite surging COVID-19 cases while refiners’ margins are expected to stay strong. Last year, refiners had to cut crude processing for a few months as lockdowns hit gasoil and jet fuel consumption.
In December, imports surged to an 11-month high of about 4.7 million bpd, about 5% more than in November, but still 7.8% lower than a year earlier, the data showed.
“With fears of Omicron spread receding and refineries are expected to operate at full capacity because of improved cracks and fuel demand, Indian oil imports could rise by about 5%,” said M. K. Surana, chairman of state-run Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL)
OPEC’s share shrunk as refiners increased imports from Canada and the United States, at the expense of Africa and the Middle East, the data showed.
As U.S. sanctions made it difficult for India to import crude from Venezuela and Iran, Indian buyers have turned to the United States, Canada, Guyana and some small producers in Africa for supplies.
U.S. and Canadian oil accounted for a record 7.3% and 2.7% of India’s imports, respectively, compared with 5.5% and 0.7% a year earlier.
The share of Latin American oil plunged to a 12-year low of 8.7% as India halted imports from Venezuela under pressure from U.S. sanctions, the data showed. Middle Eastern oil accounted for about 62% of India’s overall imports, the data showed.
Iraq remained India’s top supplier in 2021 since it overtook Saudi Arabia in 2017.
Iraqi supplies to India are expected to increase in 2022 as HPCL will lift 45% more crude for its expanded refining capacity.
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