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India’s annual oil consumption falls for first time in 21 years

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(Bloomberg) India’s petroleum consumption fell for the first time in more than two decades in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses and factories, hurting demand from one of the world’s largest users of the fuel.

Total petroleum demand declined 10.8% last year from 2019 and was at a five-year low of 193.4 million tons, according to Bloomberg calculations of provisional data published by the oil ministry’s Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell. The annual contraction was the first on record, going back as far as 1999.

Consumption of petroleum fuels by Asia’s second-biggest oil importer collapsed by as much as 70% after it embarked on one of the world’s most stringent nationwide quarantines in March. The drop resulted in a sharp cutback in crude processing and operations at petrochemical plants.

The strict restrictions ravaged the Indian economy, which is set for its biggest contraction in annual gross domestic product in records going back to 1952. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has relaxed most of the curbs to pull Asia’s third-biggest economy out of the slump.

Demand is picking up as restrictions are eased. Monthly consumption of petroleum fuels, a proxy of crude oil demand, was about 1.8% short of previous year’s levels in December and touched an 11-month high.

Gasoline consumption last month rose 9.3% year-on-year, the highest since May 2019, on increased use of personal vehicles. Diesel demand was 2.8% lower from a year earlier.

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