Petrol sales on a year’s high in September; diesel sales at 93% of pre-Covid mark

NEW DELHI: Petrol consumption shot past pre-Covid levels and diesel sales stood just 7% short of the year-ago level in September, after doddering through previous two months, indicating the economy may finally be coming out of lockdown slumber.
Simultaneously, a 13% growth in the consolidated output of India’s largest generation utility, NTPC group, in the July-September quarter further underlined a rebound in economic activity.
No wonder Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, chairman of India’s largest fuel retailer IndianOil, is expecting to run his company’s refineries at full steam soon. “It’s a matter of time. Petrol and diesel (consumption) are near-normal. State transport services are coming back. ATF (jet fuel) will take some time… So if we can convert the ATF into petrochemicals, which we can and are doing, our refinery operations should be back at 90-100% by December,” he told TOI.
Latest data shows people consumed 2% more petrol in September than they did in the same month a year ago, while diesel sales rose to nearly 93% of the pre-COVID level, jumping almost 22% from August.
Diesel is a key indicator of economic activities as it is mainly used by the transport, construction and farm sectors. Sales had risen sharply after the government began lifting curbs in June but faltered in July and August due to widespread monsoon rains, floods and local lockdowns in industrialised states. In August, diesel consumption had slipped 12% from July to fall 21% short of the pre-Covid level.
Jet fuel sales too maintained an upward trend in September, rising 22.6% from August but still remained 46% below the pre-Covid level as domestic flights picked up but overseas services remained severely curtailed, even under ‘air bubbles’.
LPG continued to post healthy gains, with people consuming 5% more than they did a year ago. On a month-on-month basis too, sales grew nearly 4% from August. LPG consumption had been growing through the lockdown as families remained confined to their homes, leading to more cooking.
Petrol sales have been boosted by more people stepping out for work and preferring to use personal vehicles to get around. This has manifested in higher passenger auto sales, with India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki posting 32% growth in September sales. In August, car sales had recorded 14% growth and two-wheelers 3%, further pushing fuel consumption.
Industry executives expect fuel consumption to rise further as the monsoon recedes, construction projects resume and the festival season begins in October.
“More people will venture out as the states cut more slack and people get into the festive mood. There will be more air and passengers, which will boost taxi service. The industrial supply chain is also expected to find its rhythm. All these factors will translate into higher demand for fuels,” a senior marketing executive with a state-run oil company said.

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