The Indian Express | Hardeep Singh Puri says India will “play market card” in oil imports, to buy from whoever offers stable, affordable supply

Feb 07,2023

As the third-largest consumer of crude oil, India will “play the market card” to secure affordable and predictable supply from “wherever it is available” to ensure energy security for its citizens, Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri today said.

The ramp-up in India’s import of discounted Russian oil after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago has irked much of the West. However, Puri has time and again defended the purchases, saying that the government’s primary moral responsibility is to provide affordable energy to the Indian consumer.

Russia, which used to be a marginal player in India’s oil import basket, is now its top supplier of crude, thanks to the discounts it has been offering to Indian refiners after much of the West started shunning Russian oil.

Speaking on energy security at the India Energy Week here, Puri said that multiple crises hit energy markets and energy security over the past one year, which affected oil importers like India. He said that navigating the environment of high global energy prices was difficult and measures like pausing fuel price hike and excise duty cuts on petrol and diesel had to be taken to manage the situation.

“What we are doing to ensure this is to take steps to ensure that we never have to face it (energy crisis) again. We are drastically increasing our area under exploration and production, we are entering into long-term supply arrangements, and since we are the world’s third-largest consumer, I’ll be very frank, we will play the market card. We will import from wherever it is available on a predictable and sound basis,” Puri said.

He defined energy security as the state of having requisite availability, and supply of energy with predictability, stability, and affordability. The minister highlighted that apart from taking measures in the petroleum sector, India is also “drastically increasing” its transition to green energy, like biofuels, compressed biogas, and green hydrogen, among others.

While being one of the biggest consumers of crude oil globally, India does not have significant oil production of its own. The country depends on imports to meet over 85 per cent of its oil needs, making it one of the largest importers of oil.

Puri also emphasised India’s position as a major oil buyer, adding that it will only be cemented further in the future. He said that while the current oil demand in India is about 5 million barrels per day, it will go up to 6.5-7 million barrels per day in the time to come.

The minister said that while India was able to manage the surge in oil prices and volatility over the past one year or so, countries that do not have any cushion from high energy prices are the most vulnerable.

“It (energy security) has far more ramifications for countries which are neither oil producers, heavily dependent on imports, and whose economic situation at the time means high energy prices could have the effect of derailing their economy,” he said.

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