India's HPCL to operate Vizag refinery at expanded capacity from end-June

By Nidhi Verma

VARANASI, India (Reuters) - State-run Hindustan Petroleum Corporation hopes to operate its Vizag refinery in southern India at an expanded capacity of 15 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) from end-June, its chairman Pushp Joshi said on Sunday.

HPCL is in the process of commissioning units at the refinery, which previously had a capacity of 8.33 mtpa, he said, adding HPCL's crude imports would rise in the next fiscal year from April as a result.

"Our crude imports will go up as we expand capacity. We will buy from wherever we get at cheaper rates," Joshi told reporters at an event to lunch gas-fuelled boats in the River Ganges.

India, the world's third biggest oil importer and consumer, buys over 80% of its oil needs from overseas. Indian refiners are investing billions of dollars to upgrade their plants to meet rising fuel demand in Asia's third largest economy.

"We market double than what we produce in the refineries so that (expansion) will help HPCL in becoming sufficient in refined products."

Joshi said HPCL's residue upgradation project at Vizag refinery will improve its distillate yield and will be ready by the end of this year or in January 2024.

As a way to expand its portfolio, HPCL is setting up an oil-to-chemical plant linked to its Vizag refinery and building a 5 mtpa gas import terminal at Chhara in the Western state of Gujarat.

Joshi said the LNG terminal would be ready by end-March but commissioning would take time as the pipeline for evacuation of gas and a breakwater, to protect vessels against high tide, are yet to be built.

"We are looking at ways for operating the terminal and have floated a term sheet to import 1.5-2 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG)," he said.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma, Editing by William Maclean)