India to keep strategic oil reserve: Pradhan
India will start keeping a strategic oil reserve from this month, which would be located at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday.
“We will start keeping a strategic oil reserve from this month. It will have 1.3 million tonnes initially and will be kept at Visakhapatnam. Preparations are afoot and the required oil is already on its way from Iraq,” Pradhan said.
The Union minister said India had no strategic oil reserve till now and the initiative would help it tide over any crisis on the oil front. “Our plan is to build a capacity of 5 million tonnes strategic reserve of oil in the first phase. This amount of oil will run the country for 13 days in case of any eventuality. We will increase the capacity of the reserve in the second phase,” Pradhan said.
The minister was in Patna after returning from the OPEC summit in Vienna, where India was the only consumer nation invited. “We have demanded that the system of ‘Asian premium’ which India has to pay while purchasing oil should be terminated. European countries do not have to pay it and they get oil at a lesser rate.
This will lead to a substantial saving of foreign exchange to the country as India spent foreign exchange worth Rs 6 lakh crore last year for importing oil,” he said. Pradhan said that his ministry had impressed upon the OPEC that India was the fourth largest buyer of petroleum products after China, US and Japan and was on its way to climb to the third spot soon as per International Energy Agency (IEA) reports.
“We told OPEC that till now you sold we bought, but this relation should not just be limited to a buyer-seller relationship. They should consider our position and should understand that we are not just a customer, but a very big customer. There should be some say of customers too,” Pradhan said.
The Union minister said that the stature of India was rising on the global platform and that it was on its way to achieve a <g data-gr-id="49">double digit</g> GDP growth in the next couple of years. The Centre was trying to improve LPG connectivity in Bihar as it ranked much lower than the national average, he pointed out. “Only 30 per cent households in Bihar have LPG connections while the national average is around 60 <g data-gr-id="50">per cent</g>. We have plans to ensure better distribution, availability and more connections in Bihar on war footing. We have already reduced the price of connection to Rs 1,600 to Rs 2,400,” Pradhan said.
There is also a plan to expand the capacity of the Barauni refinery in Bihar and create a petrochemical hub there, the minister said adding that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was working out a special package of Rs 1.5 lakh crore for the state. “All these are part of what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he would return the love and affection given by the people of Bihar with interest. We will take along Bihar in our efforts to develop our country,” he added.
Oil down after OPEC meeting, eyes on Iran talks
Oil prices fell in Asia on Monday after OPEC decided to maintain its high output levels, while traders were also weighing the possible return of Iranian supplies that have been curtailed by international sanctions against Tehran, analysts said. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July delivery fell 59 cents to $58.54 while Brent crude for July eased 56 cents to $62.75 in mid-morning trade. Analysts said investors were mulling the long-term impact on prices after the 12-nation Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Friday defied calls to cut output to alleviate a global supply glut that has seen prices slump almost 50 <g data-gr-id="88">per cent</g> over the past year.