By Swati Verma
(Reuters) - Indian refiners' crude throughput in July bounced to its highest in three months, as the easing of coronavirus restrictions boosted economic activity and fed demand for fuel.
Provisional government data on Monday showed refiners processed 4.58 million barrels per day (19.38 million tonnes) of crude oil last month, about 1.9% higher than 4.50 million bpd processed in June.
On a year-on-year basis, refiners' crude oil throughput in July jumped about 9.6%, while crude oil production fell about 3% to 602,000 bpd (2.55 million tonnes), the data showed.
Fuel demand also climbed last month to its highest since April as pandemic restrictions and lockdowns were unwound in most states. [O/INDIA2]
Still, heavy monsoon rains in some regions caused large-scale flooding in early August, easing demand from gasoil and gasoline, preliminary sales data showed last week.
Refiners in India, the world's third-biggest oil importer and consumer, are set to invest 2 trillion rupees ($26.96 billion) to boost oil refining capacity by 20% by 2025, junior oil minister Rameswar Teli said this month.
Indian refiners operated at an average rate of 91.34% of capacity in July, up from 89.59% of capacity in June, the government data showed. (Graphic: India's July crude oil throughput jumps to 3-month high, https://graphics.reuters.com/INDIA-REFINERY/OUTPUT/lbpgnnlkmvq/chart.png))
India's top refiner, Indian Oil Corp (IOC), last month operated its directly owned plants at 95.74% capacity, as per the data. It expects to ramp up refining to full capacity within a quarter as demand picks up.
Reliance, owner of the world's biggest refining complex, operated its plants at 86.79% capacity in July.
The state-run Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd is scooping up rising volumes of U.S. crude, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
India begun selling oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to state-run refiners as it implements a new policy to commercialise its federal storage by leasing out space, three sources familiar with the matter said last week.
(Reporting by Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio)