India’s oil import dependence jumps to 84%, bill crosses $111 bn last fiscal

Chennai: India’s oil dependence from foreign countries to meet its energy needs has jumped to a multi-year high of nearly 84 per cent, latest government data showed.

It must be noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a target to cut India’s oil import dependence by 10 per cent, from 77 per cent earlier. Further, the dependence can be cut to half by 2030, he had said.

But with consumption growing at a brisk pace and domestic output remaining stagnant, India’s oil import dependence has risen from 82.9 per cent in 2017-18 to 83.7 per cent in 2018-19, according to the Oil Ministry’s Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC).

Import dependence in 2015-16 was 80.6 per cent, which rose to 81.7 per cent in the following year, PPAC said.

The country’s oil consumption grew from 184.7 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 194.6 million tonnes in the following year and 206.2 million tonnes in the year thereafter. In 2018-19, demand grew by 2.6 per cent to 211.6 million tonnes.

In contrast, domestic output continues to fall. India’s crude oil output fell from 36.9 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 36 million tonnes in 2016-17.

The trend of negative growth continues in the following years as well as output fell to 35.7 million tonnes in 2017-18 and to 34.2 million tonnes in the fiscal year that ended on 31 March, PPAC data showed.

The government is focusing on measures like increasing domestic production, promoting the use of biofuel and energy conservation to reduce dependence on imported crude oil. It changed exploration rules multiple times during the last five years to get the elusive private and foreign investment.

The previous New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) was changed to Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) promising pricing and marketing freedom. HELP brought in open acreage licensing policy that gave companies freedom to choose areas they want to explore.

Discovered oil and gas fields, taken away from State-owned firms, were also auctioned but neither this nor the open acreage policy managed to get big names to invest in exploration and production of oil and gas.

According to PPAC, India spent $111.9 billion on oil imports in 2018-19, up from $87.8 billion in the previous fiscal year. The import bill was $64 billion in 2015-16.

For the current fiscal, it projected crude oil imports to rise to 233 million tonnes and foreign exchange spending on it to marginally increase to $112.7 billion.

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp’s (ONGC) output fell to 19.6 million tonnes in 2018-19 from 20.8 million tonnes in the previous year.

ONGC’s oil production was 20.9 million tonnes in 2016-17 and 21.1 million tonnes in 2015-16. Output from fields operated by private firms has dropped from 11.2 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 9.6 million tonnes in 2018-19.

To cut shale import
According to reports, India is uncomfortable with the idea of buying more American shale oil, which the US has been pushing to counterbalance the impact of sanctions on Iranian oil exports.

The issue with US shale is that it will be more expensive for Indian refineries to process it, effectively increasing the price of the output, reports stated.

People in the know have said once the US sanctions on Iranian oil kicked in, India’s future purchases from alternative energy suppliers will be finalised keeping in mind the country’s energy and commercial security.

The US sanctions will disrupt supplies from Iran, which accounted for 10 per cent of India’s energy imports in 2018-19. Reports stated that the country might be reconsidering the decision to import more shale oil from the US because only a handful of new refineries, such as Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC) Paradip Refinery, can process shale oil as its composition and properties are different from crude oil.

NT Bureau