India’s crude imports fell for the first time this decade in 2019. Total volumes of 4.41mn b/d were down by 2.3% (106,000 b/d) on 2018’s record 4.51mn b/d (MEES, 22 February 2019). With domestic crude output down 4% year-on-year at 670,000 b/d, and the country’s refined products demand up 3.2% at 5.02mn b/d, the figures imply a slump in net products exports from 346,000 b/d for 2018 to just 60,000 b/d for 2019.

But the IEA, in a key report on India released last month, reckons this will be just a blip. India is already the world’s third largest oil consumer behind the US (20.5mn b/d for 2019) and China with 13.9mn b/d. The IEA sees India’s oil demand growing strongly over the coming years, with the country overtaking China as the key source of global oil demand growth from the mid-2020s. Indian oil demand will hit 6mn b/d by 2024, the IEA forecasts in its ‘India 2020’ energy policy review released 10 January. And crude imports are likely to grow faster than demand given that New Delhi has been “making India a very attractive market for refinery investment [in a bid] to maintain India’s position as a refining hub,” the IEA says. As a result of this and the country’s “limited” domestic reserves, India’s import dependence, already 87% (see chart 1) “is going to increase significantly in the coming decades.” (CONTINUED - 660 WORDS)