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India's top oil refiner back at full capacity for first time since COVID-19

·2 min read
A logo of Indian Oil is seen on the shirt of an employee at a fuel station in New Delhi

By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Oil Corp, the country's top refiner, operated of its 9 plants in November at 100% capacity for the first time since February, to meet rising local fuel demand, it said in a statement on Thursday.

IOC previously operated its directly-owned plants at full capacity ahead of a nationwide lockdown enforced from late March to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

India's fuel demand has been recovering from the lows seen in April with a gradual pick up in the industrial and economic activity after the lockdown was eased.

Along with its subsidiary Chennai Petroleum Corp, IOC controls about a third of the 5 million barrels per day refining capacity in India, where fuel demand in October rose by 2.5%, its first year-on-year rise in eight months.

Local fuel demand - a proxy for oil consumption - in India has almost reached pre-COVID levels, IOC said.

The refiner operated its plants at about 88% in October and at 99% in November last year, it said.

"As we get closer to the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, the fundamentals of the economy being strong, we see a rapid V-shaped recovery in the overall consumption of petroleum products," said S.M. Vaidya, chairman of IOC.

"All our project sites too are witnessing a revival in terms of construction activities," he said.

IOC, also the country's largest fuel retailer, in November sold 1.06 million tonnes of gasoline, 4% higher than same month last year, and sales of cooking gas rose by about 1.4% to 1.09 million tonnes.

However, the company's diesel sales last month were 9% lower that previous year, while jet fuel was down by about 45% as air travel restrictions continued. Sales of diesel and jet fuel in November rose by 2% and 4% from October.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma. Editing by Jane Merriman and Barbara Lewis)