By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI, Oct 29 (Reuters) - India’s crude oil imports in September rose 17.6 percent from a year earlier as Reliance Petroleum RPET.BO began filling its new refinery’s tanks, official data showed on Wednesday.
Domestic oil sales accelerated 7.8 percent as floods receded after a slower 3.6 percent annual rise in August, unlike China where apparent oil demand rose by just over 2 percent in September, the slowest growth in 10 months.
The oil market is focused on demand trends across the world as prospects of lower consumption helped crude oil prices to more than halve to about $66 a barrel from a record of $147.27 in July.
In India, diesel sales rose 17.5 percent as industrial users continued to substitute fuel oil with subsidised diesel while power shortages encouraged greater use of diesel to generate electricity, government officials said.
“The Tamil Nadu state has asked for additional 1,500 kilolitres additional diesel a day for power generation, which only confirms substitution,” an oil ministry official, who did not want to be identified, said.
Total domestic sales of refined products, a proxy for demand, rose to 10.51 million tonnes from 9.76 million tonnes in September last year.
The International Energy Agency, in its latest report, has kept its forecast for Indian demand unchanged at an average of 3.1 million barrels per day (bpd) for 2008 and 3.2 million bpd in 2009.
Crude oil imports rose 17.6 percent to 10.26 million tonnes, mainly due to higher purchases by Essar Oil ESRO.BO, which is running its unit at a higher capacity and Reliance Petroleum that is about to commission its 580,000 bpd refinery.
Imports of refined products fell 41.4 percent to 3.74 million tonnes as there were no diesel purchases against 392,000 tonnes a year ago, while naphtha imports fell 16.2 percent to 458,600 tonnes.
Exports fell 13.4 percent to 2.98 million tonnes mainly because state-run firms diverted shipments to meet rising domestic demand. (Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan)