All stories by S Dinakar
India's Russian revolution: Why refiners are buying more Russian crudeRediff.com10 Jun 2022
India may see a structural shift in supplies of crude oil with Russia emerging as a key source of fuels, a development that reduces New Delhi's dependence on West Asian oil, gives Indian refiners better bargaining power with price-setter Saudi Arabia, and improves overall energy security. The unexpected surge in supplies of Russian crude in the last few months, unthinkable until the war in Ukraine, may also deliver other unforeseen gains such as boosting exports of refined fuels to Europe, which historically has counted on Russian shipments. India has jumped on to the bandwagon of opportunistic buying of Russian crude but if calibrated carefully, Urals crude can be a long-term asset for India refiners.
Retrofitted EVs: Indian jugaad that's cheap, clean & battery-poweredRediff.com29 May 2022
India has a history of jugaad, and retrofitting vehicles is one such manifestation of the legendary Indian skill. Not so long ago autorickshaws and small Marutis used to strap on subsidised LPG cylinders and power themselves to a cheap ride. There were the odd explosions, lives were lost, but the jugaad continued. Then compressed natural gas (CNG) was introduced in Delhi following a court order. Initially, customised CNG kits were fitted to conventional (internal combustion engine or ICE) autos cheaply, enabling commuting at less than half of what you would cough up for diesel. The industry is better organised now with Suzuki and Hyundai designing CNG-fired vehicles, and Mahindra and TVS manufacturing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)-powered three wheelers.
India's tryst with coal and clean energy is coming unstuckRediff.com17 May 2022
India's jugalbandhi with coal and clean energy is coming unstuck, neither achieving adequate renewable generation nor ensuring sufficient coal-fired power in the quest to become a $5-trillion economy. Six months have elapsed since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ambitious climate agenda for India at COP26 at Glasgow. The net zero emissions target by 2070 is a distant one, but there are nearer-term plans to meet 50 per cent of energy demand with renewables by 2030 by increasing capacity to 450 Gw. A cursory look at the balance sheet of India's climate progress since November reveals ponderous progress towards meeting the renewables target even as the country is scrambling to expand coal-fired generation in the face of a power crisis.
Why are electric two-wheelers in India catching fire?Rediff.com12 May 2022
Nearly a decade ago, the first fully electric vehicle (EV) caught fire on the road in the US. It was a model from Tesla, the world's most admired EV maker. A metal fragment punctured the underbelly of the vehicle, penetrating its battery pack, leading to a fire. Indian lawmakers and automakers have had nine years to study the incident (in fact, three Tesla Model Ss caught fire in two months in 2013) but seem to have learnt little.
India's fuel pricing mechanism is opaque and removed from realityRediff.com5 Apr 2022
What could be more uncertain than Virat Kohli's agonising wait for a century for over two years? Perhaps it's what you will pay tomorrow morning to fill your vehicle's tank. Pump prices have joined cricket scores as the country's favourite discussion topic. Steep increases invite widespread protests, while moderate additions make the government anti-reformist. The ongoing fuel price conundrum is no different.
Why Ukraine conflict may see a slowdown in Indian fuel importsRediff.com25 Mar 2022
India's appetite for imported crude oil may wane in fiscal year (FY) 2023 from record levels in pre-pandemic 2019-20 fiscal as higher oil prices, a spillover from the conflict in Ukraine, and increasing use of biofuels affect domestic demand for petroleum products. Brent crude surged to a nine-year high, shy of a July 2008 record $147.50 a barrel, before declining to around $100 a barrel - but the volatility in commodity rates will slow global economic growth and use of fuels. Demand for all oil products may grow at only 2-3 per cent in FY23, slower than the current fiscal and nearly half the 5.5 per cent growth estimated by the petroleum ministry, according to industry officials.
Households must prepare for hefty rise in LPG pricesRediff.com22 Feb 2022
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman cut fuel subsidies while slapping additional fuel taxes on unblended transport fuels in the latest Union Budget. The former will hit the rural poor, households that secured a subsidised LPG connection under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), a programme that was partly instrumental in helping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win the 2019 general elections. The latter will pretty much hurt the entire population after it kicks in from October. That's what it looks like. Or, perhaps, it's not as it appears to be, at least on the subsidy front.
Why India's oil import bill is likely to go upRediff.com3 Feb 2022
India must be prepared for a big, fat fuel import bill in FY23 - barring any further avatars of the Covid virus - as refiners crank up runs, or crude processing rates, to meet the growing demand for fuels, and crude prices soar. Capacity additions by an Indian state-run refiner will reinforce the need for foreign crude. Demand for all fuels is expected to increase by 3-8 per cent next fiscal from 2021-22, reaching pre-pandemic levels, according to analysts and industry experts.
BPCL privatisation: How long will govt wait for the right suitor?Rediff.com19 Jan 2022
In 2017, a consortium led by Russian state oil company Rosneft agreed to buy Essar Oil for $12.9 billion in India's biggest foreign acquisition of a homegrown company. Rosneft's buyout of Essar's assets was meant to herald a wave of energy investments in India - over six decades after Esso, Caltex and Shell invested in India's refining sector in the 1950s. But the government has tripped up in its efforts to sell Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), formerly Burmah Shell, a blue chip public sector company. Bidders include a couple of global funds and resources firm Vedanta.
Surging prices threaten to spoil India's coming-of-age gas partyRediff.com17 Dec 2021
Around 15 years ago, when Reliance Industries (RIL) struck natural gas in the Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin off the east coast, the government made plans to supply that fuel cheaply to scores of generators that sprang up in India triggered by the discovery. Most of the plants, which account for 6 per cent of India's total generation capacity, operate sparsely after the KG-D6 area first failed to meet production targets, and then finally shut shop. Affordable domestic gas was why those thermal plants came up and the rate of the fuel today is why those generators hardly operate. Record liquefied natural gas (LNG) rates may yet again unravel India's ambitions to expand use of gas in industries, households and vehicles. Rates, while volatile, may stay strong this decade as developed nations with higher purchasing power embrace gas as the transition fuel.
Why does India fail to attract foreign investments in oil & gas?Rediff.com1 Dec 2021
Why does the world's fastest-growing major consumer of energy fail to attract investments in oil and gas? This is a question worth pondering after private sector conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) failed to close a $15-billion downstream asset deal with Saudi Arabia's national oil company, Aramco. It's understandable if multi-billion dollar investments in oil and gas projects or deals involving state companies that need to traverse a complex bureaucracy at state and federal levels and the corridors of ministries unravel. However, Mukesh Ambani-run RIL, India's most successful energy company, is not typically known to fumble on closing deals (Ambani closed deals worth around Rs 2 trillion early last year in telecom and retail with blue chip investors).