Saudi Aramco, Total SA want to set up petrol pumps in India

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Global oil major Saudi Aramco of Saudi Arabia and Total SA of France have evinced interest in setting up petrol pumps in India to retail fuel in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

With India set to replace China as the biggest driver of fuel consumption in the world, the oil majors are eyeing the country’s auto fuel market which is expanding by double-digit, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.

“Saudi Aramco and Total are interested in getting into our domestic market. They are welcome to invest within our conditions,” he said.

A licence to retail fuel in the country is subject to a company investing Rs 2,000 crore in oil and gas infrastructure – refineries, exploration and production, pipelines or terminals.

While Total has a stake in Shell-operated LNG import terminal at Hazira in Gujarat which it can show to claim the retail license, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia so far has not invested any money in infrastructure in India.

Pradhan said during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Aramco showed interest to enter the Indian market and his ministry is looking at ways of helping it.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest supplier of crude to the world’s fourth-biggest oil consumer, India.

Pradhan had during his visit offered Saudi Aramco a stake in refineries and petrochemical projects, which it can show to claim a retailing license.

With a slump in oil prices impacting its earnings, Saudi Aramco wants to expand into downstream sector globally particularly in countries like Indonesia, India, US, Vietnam and China.

Pradhan said India had in 2010 freed petrol price from government control and diesel in October 2014 with a view to attract investments in the sector.

“Consumers will benefit with entry of multinationals,” he said adding private sector Reliance Industries and Essar Oil are already there in the fuel retailing segment.

Further, there is Royal Dutch Shell which is mostly concentrated in south.

State-owned fuel retailers Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) own 95% of the nearly 54,000 petrol pumps in the country.

Shell, he said, has informed him of plans to expand its retail network in a big way in the southern India. Also, there is BP Plc but it is confined currently to only marketing jet fuel (ATF) at airports.