December fuel demand rises to 11-month high

Diesel sales slip from year-earlier period for a second straight month dampening overall consumption.

India’s fuel demand rose sequentially for the fourth straight month in December as the resumption of economic activity took consumption to a 11-month high. Still, demand was about 2% lower than pre-COVID levels.

Total demand for petroleum products in December fell to 18.59 million tonnes, from 18.94 million tonnes a year earlier, provisional data published by the oil ministry’s Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell show.

Fuel consumption, however, posted a month-on-month increase for the fourth straight month, helped by reviving transportation and business activity.

India had consumed 17.86 million tonnes in November.

The consumption in December was the highest since January 2020.

While petrol had reached pre-COVID levels in September, diesel consumption returned to normal in October. However, demand for the main transportation fuel declined again in November and December.

Diesel slips again

Diesel demand, which had soared 7.4% year-on-year in October, dropped 6.9% in November and by 2.7% in December to 7.18 million tonnes. Month-on-month, the demand slightly improved from 7.04 million tonnes.

Fuel demand had slumped by 49% in April after a nationwide lockdown, imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, shut industries and took most vehicles off-road.

The 69-day nationwide lockdown was followed by local and State-level restrictions. The curbs have eased only slowly and in phases, while localised restrictions in containment zones remain.

The onset of the festive season had fuelled a rise in consumption, but public transport is not back to normal levels yet, as schools and educational institutions continue to remain shut in most parts of the country.

Demand for naphtha, which is used as an industrial fuel for generating electricity and producing petrochemicals, fell 2.67% to 1.23 million tonnes in December.

Bitumen, LPG

But, consumption of bitumen, used in road construction, jumped by 20% to 7,61,000 tonnes.

LPG — the only fuel that showed growth even during the lockdown period on the back of the government giving free cooking gas to the poor — was 7.4% higher at 2.53 million tonnes.

Aviation turbine fuel or ATF sales fell 41% to 4,28,000 tonnes as most airlines are yet to resume full operations. However, on a month-on-month basis, it improved by 13.5%.

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