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January 30, 2001
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India's oil imports little affected by quake

Crude oil shipments into India, Asia's fourth largest importer, are unlikely to be severely disrupted by last week's earthquake despite a halt in operations at the country's busiest port, traders and shippers said on Tuesday.

India buys around 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude and oil products, but little goes through the port of Kandla.

All commercial activity at Kandla remained at a standstill on Tuesday four days after the earthquake and power there had yet to be restored.

"We were afraid that it would affect (refiner) Reliance but so far it's okay, there is no serious damage," one trader with a major oil company said.

Private refiner Reliance Petroleum, which runs India's largest refinery at Jamnagar, and the Koyali refinery owned by Indian Oil Corp are the main plants in Gujarat.

Both companies say their plants were not damaged in the earthquake last Friday, although there were power failures that shut some units and a key oil products pipeline running from Kandla to Bhatinda in Punjab.

IOC said it expected the pipeline to restart pumping around February 3, while operations at the 272,000 bpd Koyali refinery were running normally.

Reliance said power had been fully restored to its 540,000 bpd refinery, which was being restarted in phases.

Kandla port damage

It is still unclear the extent of damage at Kandla, which handles 17 per cent of the cargo passing through India's 12 largest ports.

Indian officials have said that only two of five oil jetties were functioning and that discharge of crude and products at the port was not possible because of a dislocation to a pipeline used to offload material.

Traders said disruptions at Kandla would not severely affect oil movements because India's petroleum imports and exports through the port were minimal.

"We are still monitoring the situation. Maybe we can get a clearer picture in the next few days, but so far there's no big impact," one Singapore-based ship broker said.

One shipping source estimated that only two to three vessels of 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes each may be held back from delivering oil products.

Sources noted that such vessels could divert to other Indian ports including Mangalore and Vadinar.

The ports of Jamnagar and Hazira, through which Reliance imports crude, were not damaged.

India has sharply reduced refined products imports since last year due to an increase in domestic refining capacity.

Indian oil officials on Monday ruled out any rise in product imports, saying stocks were comfortable and sufficient for the time being to meet demand.

Traders in the region, however, remained on the sidelines.

"I think there might be some increase in demand in the mid-term. We've been told they could have some requirements for jet-kerosene but at the moment we have not seen them coming out to buy yet," said a Singapore trader.

India, formerly one of the region's largest diesel importer, has become largely self-sufficient since the start up of Reliance's plant in 1999.

It still imports some liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), fuel oil, kerosene and gasoline, but volumes are minimal at about 100,000 bpd.

The country recently started exports of some products, but is not yet a major supplier to the Asian market.


The RD Killer Quake: Complete coverage on rediff


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Major earthquakes across the world in recent times

Earthquake News: Comprehensive news, information and features

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