Petrol, Diesel Demand Slumps 66% In April As Demand Evaporates
Gas pumps for petrol and diesel stand at a Bharat Petroleum Corp. gas station in Haridwar, India. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

Petrol, Diesel Demand Slumps 66% In April As Demand Evaporates

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India's fuel consumption slumped by over 66 percent in April as a nationwide lockdown halted economic activity and travel, which eviscerated demand.

Petrol and diesel demand is down 66 percent in April, while aviation turbine fuel consumption has collapsed by 90 percent as most airlines have stopped flying, industry officials said.

India had consumed 2.4 million tonnes of petrol and 7.3 million tonnes of diesel in April 2019. As much as 6,45,000 tonne of aviation turbine fuel was used in that month last year.

The collapse of demand in the world's third-biggest consumer during April comes on the back of worst fuel sales in more than a decade recorded in March 2020.

The country's petroleum product consumption fell 17.79 percent to 16.08 million tonnes in March as diesel, petrol and ATF demand fell, according to official data released here.

Diesel, the most consumed fuel in the country, saw demand contract by 24.23 percent to 5.65 million tonnes. This is the biggest fall in diesel consumption the country has recorded as most trucks went off-road and railways stopped plying trains.

Petrol sales dropped 16.37 percent to 2.15 million tonnes in March as the 21-day nationwide lockdown enforced to prevent the spread of Covid-19 took most cars and two-wheelers off the road.

With flights grounded since mid-March, ATF consumption fell 32.4 percent to 4,84,000 tonnes.

The only fuel that showed growth was LPG as households rushed to book refills for stocking during the three-week lockdown period.

LPG sales rose 1.9 percent to 2.3 million tonne in March.

This is the first estimate of total petroleum product consumption in the country. This includes sales by both public and private sector companies.

Also read: A Trifecta Of Problems Face Oil Marketers In Fourth Quarter

Previously, provisional numbers of the three public sector oil marketing companies -- Indian Oil Company, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd, -- were released that also showed a 17 percent drop in petrol and 26 percent slump in diesel sales in March.

Industry officials said the pattern in fuel consumption is continuing in April as the lockdown is to last till mid of the month and there are indications that part restrictions will continue even after the lockdown is lifted.

Petrol and diesel sales in April are one-third of what they were a year ago, they said adding that demand is expected to pick up when the lockdown is lifted and restrictions on public transport lifted.

LPG sales in April is up 30 percent, they said adding that these are provisional trends and actual numbers will only be known at the month-end.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a 21-day lockdown beginning March 25, shutting offices and factories, barring those involved in essential services. Also, flights were suspended, trains stopped plying, vehicles went off the road and cargo movement stopped as most people were asked to stay home to help check the spread of coronavirus.

March is the first month in two-and-a-half years when petrol sales have seen a negative or degrowth.

Naphtha consumption in March was up 15.7 percent to 1.38 million tonnes, possibly because of its increased use in power plants. But, other industrial fuels such as fuel oil posted a 10.4 percent drop to 4,82,000 tonnes.

Also read: Oil Demand Slumps 70% in India as Third-Biggest Buyer Shuts Down

Bitumen, used in road construction, saw a 41 percent drop in consumption to 5,25,000 tonnes.

In the full 2019-20 fiscal (April 2019 to March 2020), petroleum product consumption was almost unchanged at 213.68 million tonne as compared to 213.21 million tonne of fuel consumed in the previous 2018-19.

LPG consumption saw a 5.8 percent rise to 26.3 million tonne, while petrol sales were up 5.9 percent to 29.97 million tonne.

ATF sales slipped 3.6 percent to 8 million tonne and diesel consumption was down 1.1 percent at 82.6 million tonne.

Diesel sales had shown modest growth in April 2019 to February 2020.

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