India To Cut Saudi Oil Imports Amid Escalating Standoff Over Output and Diversification Drive

Indian state refiners are planning to cut oil imports from Saudi Arabia by about a quarter in May, Reuters has reported, citing its sources. This comes after calls from India to increase crude production were ignored by OPEC, RT reported.

The sources said, on condition of anonymity, that Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, as well as Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals, are preparing to lift about 10.8 million barrels in May.

According to people familiar with the discussions, the move is part of the Indian government’s drive to cut dependence on crude from the Middle East. They said that state refiners, which control about 60% of India’s five million barrels per day (bpd) refining capacity, together import an average 14.7-14.8 million barrels of Saudi oil per month.

The refiners could not cut April oil imports from Saudi Arabia as nominations were placed before the OPEC+ decision in early March to extend most cuts, the sources added. They also said that plans for May were preliminary and final May nominations would be known in early April.

India is the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer, importing more than 80% of its oil needs and relying heavily on the Middle East.

The country’s oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan has repeatedly called on OPEC+ to ease supply curbs as India’s economy was being hit hard by growing oil prices. The minister has blamed Saudi’s voluntary cuts for contributing to a spike in global oil prices. However, the Saudi energy minister suggested India dip into strategic reserves filled with cheaper oil bought last year.

Pradhan responded by asking refiners to speed up their diversification of crude sources and reduce reliance on the Middle East.