Demand revival- Petrol consumption returns to pre-COVID-19 levels, Diesel still lags

A worker holds a nozzle to pump petrol into a vehicle at a fuel station in Mumbai, India, May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/Files

India’s petrol sales rose 2 percent in September – the first increase since the country’s lockdown in late March – signalling demand returning to pre-COVID-19 levels.


Diesel sales continue to be below normal but have shown a month-on-month increase, according to provisional data from state-owned fuel retailers who control 90 percent of the market.


Petrol sales in September rose 2 percent YoY and were up 10.5 percent over the previous month.


Diesel sales continue to be in the negative territory, with demand falling 7 percent YoY.


But the demand was 22 percent higher over August 2020.


This is the first time that petrol sales in the world’s third-largest oil importer have risen since the March 25 nationwide lockdown crippled economic activity and sent demand plummeting.


Petrol sales rose to 2.2 million tonne (MT) in September as compared to 2.16MT in the same month last year and 1.9MT during August 2020.


Demand for diesel, the most consumed fuel in the country, fell to 4.84MT from 5.2MT in September 2019.


Sales were 3.97MT during August this year.


Earlier this week, Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) Director (Marketing) Arun Kumar Singh had stated that petrol sales were almost at pre-COVID-19 levels but diesel is lagging.


This was because personal mobility was being preferred leading to more private cars on the road. But in case of diesel, consumption sectors like school buses and public transport were at a very subdued level, he had said.


“As we move along, petrol will come into growth zone in October/November while diesel will be in the rate of (minus) -0-3 per cent range,” he had said.


Industry sources said while the Indian economy has started to pick up with lockdown restrictions being lifted since June, local lockdowns by states have hampered the demand quickly picking up.


The September rise in petrol is a turnaround from the sharp drop witnessed in August.


Diesel and petrol sales have fallen by 21 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively in August from a year earlier.


Jet fuel sales at 6,18,000 tonne was down 54 percent in September but was 22.5 percent higher than 2,35,000 tonne sales in August.


Cooking gas LPG sales were up 5 percent at 2.28MT YoY and 3.5 percent month-on-month.


Car sales rose 14 percent in August from a year earlier, while two-wheeler sales increased by 3 percent.