India overtakes China in rise of oil imports
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Over the first nine months of 2021, India boosted sea imports of oil by 3 % year-on-year (to 148.4 million tonnes) and coal imports by 7 % (to 192.1 million tonnes), while China reduced its imports, respectively, by 8 % (to 340.3 million tonnes) and 7 % (to 192.1 million tonnes), according to data from Refinitiv.

    For imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the opposite picture applied. Over the same period, India reduced its imports by 4 % (TO 24.3 billion cu.m. in regasified form), while China’s imports soared by 25 % (to 80.4 bcm).

    The increase in oil imports helped the Indian economy’s recovery (GDP contracted by 7.3 % in 2020 and is to grow by 9.5 % in 2021, according to the October forecast by the International Monetary Fund). Even more pronounced growth was recorded in the auto industry – from April to September 2020, a total of 880,000 passenger cars were sold, while in the same period of 2021, the total stood at 1.388 million – an increase of 58 %, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (the fiscal year in India begins in April).

    India’s increase in coal imports was directly related to greater electricity generation. From April to September, electricity production rose 12.7 %, according to data from India’s Ministry of Power. Given that the share of coal in power generation stood at 72 % in 2020, this increase could only spur greater demand for coal.

    In China, given a comparable share of coal in power generation (63 % in 2020) and a two-figure increase in demand for electricity, (12.9 % from January-September, according to the Chinese Electricity Council), sea imports of coal fell by 7 % (to 192.1 million tonnes). A considerable factor in this was the embargo placed on Australia, which reduced shipments of coal from 71.8 million tonnes in January-September 2020 to 3.4 million tonnes in the same period of 2021.

    As a result, China was obliged to shift to LNG—and that led to reductions in LNG shipments not only to India, but also to Europe. Over the first nine months of 2021, European LNG imports declined by 17 % (to 128.2 bcm, according to Refinitiv data).

    There were also changes in the structure of Indian oil imports.

    In March 2021, the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas issued a directive to state oil refineries to diversify sources of raw materials, Reuters reported. As a result, the combined share of Saudi Arabia Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates declined from 59 % to 56 %, according to statistic complied over the first nine months of 2021.

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