Delhi, 12 October (Argus) — Indian demand for transport fuels, except for gasoline, remained lower than year-earlier levels in September despite relaxations to the country’s Covid-19 lockdown measures because of collapsing businesses and record job losses.

Sales of diesel, India’s most-consumed oil product, averaged 1.36mn b/d last month, down from 1.45mn b/d a year earlier but up from 1.17mn b/d in August, according to preliminary oil ministry data.

Gasoline consumption fared better, rising to 690,000 b/d in September from 668,000 b/d a year earlier and 649,000 b/d in August.

indias transport fule demand remains under pressure - oilandgas360

Jet fuel sales averaged 82,000 b/d last month, up from 65,000 b/d in August but down from 172,000 b/d in September 2019. India’s jet fuel demand will remain low in the April 2020-March 2021 fiscal year as the government does not plan to allow international travel until next March. But it plans to increase the capacity of local airlines for domestic travel to 75pc from 50pc now.

LPG use of 2.27mn t last month was flat from August but higher from 2.16mn t in September 2019. Fuel oil demand of 105,000 b/d last month fell from 114,000 b/d a year earlier, while naphtha use rose to 338,000 b/d in September from 328,000 b/d a year earlier. Overall fuel demand of 15.5mn t in September was lower from 16.2mn t a year earlier but rose from 14.4mn t in August.

Indian oil product demand is struggling to recover from a pandemic-driven economic slowdown. The country’s economy contracted by 24pc in the April-June period and is forecast to shrink by around 15pc in the 12 months to the end of March 2021, according to US bank Goldman Sachs. The World Bank has forecast a 9.6pc contraction this fiscal year and growth of a little over 5pc in the next fiscal year.

India’s Covid-19 infections have crossed 7mn and are fast approaching US levels. Cases have surprisingly declined over the past few days, despite an easing of lockdown restrictions and people going around without wearing masks or observing social distancing rules. Case numbers are falling after states like Punjab and Delhi shut down many testing centres, making it difficult for people to get tests done.

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