New Delhi: Global oil firms, including Saudi Aramco and Total plan to tap the retail fuel market in India, its oil minister said on Friday, reflecting the expanding role of the world’s fastest-growing large economy on the global crude landscape.

India’s fuel markets could be a lucrative prize for the world’s oil majors as they seek outlets for their gasoline and diesel.

India posted the fastest oil demand growth in the world in the first quarter of 2016 and is replacing China as the driver of growth globally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its latest report.

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“Saudi Aramco is eager to enter in Indian market, we are finding ways to help them,” oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in Hindi in a live telecast on a government website.

India, the world’s fourth biggest oil consumer, recently offered Saudi Aramco a stake in refineries and petrochemical projects.

Saudi Aramco wants to expand globally and is looking at potential joint ventures in several countries, including Indonesia, India, the US, Vietnam and China, chief executive Amin Nasser told Reuters in an interview in May.

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Fuel marketing in India has turned profitable after the government ended decades-old control over the retail prices of gasoline and diesel.

Pradhan said local private oil refiners Reliance Industries and Essar Oil have started opening their mothballed fuel stations and are adding new ones to expand business.

French major Total and European major Royal Dutch Shell that have a limited presence in India are also keen to strengthen their presence in the fuel retailing business, Pradhan said.

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“Shell officials recently met me and informed about their plan to expand the retail network in a big way in southern India,” he said.

He said his ministry has agreed to grant a licence to BP to market jet fuel in India.

“There is a possibility they (BP) may expand into the Indian retail sector,” he said in Hindi.

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Essar Oil is still working to complete a deal to a sell a 49% stake in its 400,000 barrel per day Vadinar refinery in Gujarat to Russian giant Rosneft.

“Rosneft, rich with oil and gas, wants to join Indian markets,” Pradhan said.

LPG distributors

The government will appoint 10,000 new liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, or cooking gas) distributors this year under a new procedure so as to extend the reach of clean fuel across the country by 2018, Pradhan said.

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“The 10,000 new LPG dealerships will be on top of the around 16,000 existing dealers in the country. We had declared 2016 as the Year of LPG Consumers, and this is yet another step in the direction of making clean cooking fuel available to the entire population of the country by 2018, particularly in rural areas,” he said.

About 2,000 agencies are already in the process of being appointed and the remaining will be completed in two phases, he said. Reuters

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