Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister HS Puri on Thursday said private oil refiners sourcing cheap crude oil from Russia and exporting diesel and petrol to the US and Europe, bypassing the domestic market, should deal with the issue with a “sense of responsibility”.

The minister’s comments come as PSU oil refiners are incurring under recoveries of ₹20-22 a litre on diesel and ₹15-18 on petrol in the domestic market. Reports suggest some private refiners sourced crude oil from Russia at discounts of around $35 per barrel and are selling finished products at a premium in the US and Europe.

On government plans to direct private refiners to sell a mandated portion of diesel and petrol in India, the minister said, “Is Russian crude coming into a private refinery and going to the US? I really would never find out. There is no possibility. So ultimately, it’s people (private refiners) dealing with these things who have to treat with it with a sense of responsibility. Your question about private refiners selling in our markets ... We are having conversations with them, that is a separate issue. But that is not something I can comment on in a press conference.”

However, the minister pointed out that it is difficult to ascertain the origin and destination of a tanker supplying crude oil.

Under recoveries

When quizzed about losses incurred by PSU refiners, Puri said: “All our corporate citizens have a sense of responsibility. The prices of ATF and commercial gas have come down. These are actions taken by the companies ... They are talking about under recoveries ... they come to us and say we need relief here or there, but ultimately it’s their decision.”

On the issue of imposition of windfall tax on private oil refiners, the minister said, “Such talks are speculative. Plans on imposing taxes are addressed better elsewhere. It is the domain of the Finance Ministry.”

Expectations from OPEC+

“We have already told them that these are challenging times and the decision they take in terms of quantities they release has an impact on price and that will affect the global economy. Let’s see what decision they take,” Puri said at the scheduled meeting of OPEC+ members on Thursday.

He also applauded the government’s decision to slash excise duty on petrol and diesel last month. “... the Prime Minister decided that the common man required relief,” he noted.

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