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Analysis: India moves its SPR plan into top gear as oil prices bite

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India to add another 6.5 million mt of SPR in second phase

Middle Eastern suppliers explore tie-up opportunities

Platts Analytics expects India's oil demand to rise further

Singapore — India is accelerating its plans to more than double its strategic petroleum reserves, a move that would help to cushion the impact of volatile world prices at a time when analysts are betting on a robust oil consumption outlook.

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The move is also helping to deepen its relations with some Middle Eastern oil producers who are not only aiming to supply oil to the Asian consumer but are also looking to establish ground presence in the fast-growing South Asian market -- through various tie-ups and investment opportunities.

India, which imports more than 80% of its crude oil needs, is seeking to finance the second phase of SPRs -- partially through commercial agreements with foreign oil producers who can lease storage, as well as through partnership with private investors, government officials said.

"Building SPRs to ensure energy security is increasingly important to India as its oil demand continues to grow amid supply uncertainty," said Lim Jit Yang, director for Asia-Pacific at S&P Global Platts Analytics.

"India is still behind as far as SPRs is concerned, compared to major consuming countries, such as China and the US. But it is moving in the right direction," he added.

According to Platts Analytics, India's oil products demand grew by 250,000 b/d over the first three quarters of this year, up from a growth of 130,000 b/d in 2017, as disruptions caused by demonetization and implementation of a good and services tax have eased.

It expects India's oil product demand growth to improve further in 2019 given expectations of robust economic growth.

"Both ADNOC and Saudi Aramco are increasingly looking to expand their global footprint through partnerships. India is a prime target given its dependency on imported crude oil," said Senthil Kumaran, consultant for oil markets at Facts Global Energy.

STRATEGIC INVESTMENT

In the first phase, India set up SPRs in three locations -- Visakhapatnam (1.33 million mt), Mangalore (1.50 million mt) and Padur (2.50 million mt)-- all in southern India. They have a combined capacity of 5.33 million mt. All three facilities have been commissioned.

"The second phase of the strategic oil reserve will be developed on a public-private partnership and global oil majors are welcome to take part," India's petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said recently, adding that an investment of around $1.5 billion would be needed to develop the two identified sites in the second phase.

For the expansion in the second phase, the Indian Cabinet has approved the addition of another 6.5 million mt of SPRs. The sites identified for the second phase are Chandikhol in Odisha, which will have a facility to store 4 million mt, and Padur in the southern state of Karnataka, with a capacity of 2.50 million mt.

The storage location at Chandikhol will be about 100 km from state-run Indian Oil Corporation's biggest refinery at Paradip, which has a capacity of 15 million mt/year (300,000 b/d), while the Padur facility is close to the 300,000 b/d Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited complex.

"These storage inventories would offer a unique opportunity for various stakeholders and investors to explore the possibility of participating in the process," an Indian government statement said.

"Given the vantage coastline of India, the storage locations fall on the transshipment routes of crude oil from the Middle East source countries to the Far East consuming nations," it added.

The first phase is estimated to supply approximately 9.5 days of India's crude oil requirement. The second phase is expected to augment India's energy security by another 11.5 days, a government statement said.

LONG-TERM GAINS

UAE's ADNOC already has a tie-up with the state-run Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd, or ISPRL, the designated agency that manages the SPRs, to store 5.86 million barrels at the Mangalore reserve facility.

On Monday, ADNOC signed another agreement with ISPRL to lease storage at Padur. Under the agreement, ADNOC can sell oil to Indian refiners but the government will have the first right to the oil during an oil shortage.

Pradhan said India was also in talks with Saudi Aramco to lease storage at the Padur facility.

"Energy security is very important for us. Reliability of supply is something we need," IOC Chairman Sanjiv Singh told S&P Global Platts in an interview recently.

India's cooperation with the UAE has grown steadily this year as Indian oil companies were among the first to be awarded stakes in Abu Dhabi's offshore concessions earlier this year.

ADNOC and Aramco have also signed to partner India on a $44 billion refining and petrochemicals project on the country's west coast.

-- Sambit Mohanty, sambit.mohanty@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Irene Tang, newsdesk@spglobal.com