Crude oil imports in the world’s third-largest oil importer and consumer, India, surged in December 2020 to their highest in almost three years.
India’s crude oil imports jumped by 29 percent in December 2020 compared to November and by 11.6 percent compared to December 2019, to more than 5 million barrels per day (bpd), according to the data obtained by Reuters.
At the same time, provisional data from India’s Petroleum Ministry showed earlier this month that fuel demand in India posted its fourth consecutive monthly rise in December, to the highest since February 2020.
Fuel consumption was still two percent below the levels seen before the pandemic, but the rebound in economic activity and transportation resulted in four straight months of rising fuel demand in India.
India turned from the worst-performing demand market in July into one of the fastest-growing fuel demand markets in November, lending support to oil prices together with strong demand in China and progress with vaccine development and rollout.
India’s fuel demand has been boosted by one of the effects of Covid-19 on customer preferences—people avoid public transportation and prefer the comfort and relative isolation from other people in their own vehicles. This additionally boosts demand for gasoline and diesel for private vehicles.
Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) increased crude oil throughput of its refineries to 100 percent in November 2020, as consumption of all petroleum products has almost reached pre-Covid levels, the country’s biggest refiner and fuel retailer said in December.
Despite the fourth-quarter rebound in fuel consumption, India’s crude oil demand for the whole of 2020 fell for the first time in more than 20 years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Reuters estimates, India’s annual crude oil imports averaged 4.04 million bpd in 2020, the lowest in five years.