India, the world’s third biggest oil consumer, imported 212.2 million tonnes (mt) of crude oil valued at $119.2 billion in the last fiscal year, ending March 2022. The imports in value terms was the highest since FY14, when the import bill hit a whopping $143 billion for 189.2 mt of shipments.

Crude oil imports increased by 5.4 per cent and 8 per cent during March 2022 and the entire FY22, respectively, compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) said. On an annual basis, crude oil imports rose by 92 per cent from $62.2 billion in FY21.

Though India’s crude oil imports in terms of volume during FY22 have been higher than that during the Covid-impacted FY21 (196.5 mt), it is still below the pre-pandemic years of FY20 (227 mt), FY19 (226.5 mt), FY18 (220.4 mt) and FY17 (213.9 mt). However, the import volume surpassed that of FY16 (202.9 mt), FY15 (189.4 mt) and FY14 (189.2 mt).

Increasing consumption

The monthly consumption of petrol and diesel by the country hit an all-time high during March 2022, even as retail prices of the two key commodities shot up to their highest levels for that month.

India’s consumption growth was aided by economic activity inching back to normalcy as well as common man and industries stocking on the key commodities in anticipation of the government resuming the fuel price mechanism post Assembly elections in five States. Fuel price revision resumed from March 22.

India’s demand for high speed diesel (HSD) stood at 7.71 million tonnes (mt) during March this year, which is the second highest consumption by the country, barring May 2019 (7.79 mt). Petrol consumption stood at 2.91 mt — the highest ever for the key fuel.

High prices

The price of Brent crude averaged at $118.81 per barrel during March 2022 against $98.19 during February and $65.63 a barrel in March 2021. The Indian basket crude price averaged $112.87 a barrel during March 2022 against $94.07 during February 2022 and $64.73 during March 2021, PPAC said.

An analysis of the retail selling prices (RSP) of petrol and diesel reveals that prices during March 2022 were the highest ever for the month of March. During March this year, petrol prices were in the range of ₹95.41-101.81 per litre, while diesel prices were hovering in the range of ₹86.67-93.07 a litre.

For comparison sake, the RSP range for petrol and diesel stood at ₹90.56-91.17 a litre and ₹80.87-81.74 per litre, respectively, in March 2021. Similarly during March 2020, the RSP range was ₹69.59-71.71 a litre and ₹62.29-64.30 a litre for petrol and diesel, respectively.

Similarly in March 2019, the prices were in the range of ₹71.81-72.86 a litre and ₹66.14-67.12 a litre for petrol and diesel, respectively.

During March 2022, Brent crude oil prices scaled $139.13 per barrel, before easing, which is the highest since 2008. Back home, the crude oil (Indian Basket) FOB price stood at $126.36 per barrel at an exchange rate of ₹76.92 per US dollar on March 7. For comparison, on April 7, the crude oil price on FOB basis was $98.68 a barrel at an exchange rate of ₹75.78 for the US dollar.