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INDIA – Refinery bosses don't expect Indian fuel demand to recover to pre-pandemic levels until the end of the current financial year next March, even as they look to target stronger buying from September ahead of the Hindu festival season. Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. (HPCL) Chairman Mukesh Surana says Indian jet fuel buying is still 50% below pre-pandemic levels after the latest Covid-19 spike and set to drag down overall product demand for the full fiscal year (JFI May21'21). "Jet fuel demand is unlikely to recover anytime soon since business travel and international tourism will take time to get back to normal levels," Surana warned last week. He expects India's diesel demand to lag pre-pandemic levels in that time while rival Indian Oil Corp. (IOC) Chairman Shrikant Madhav Vaidya is much more optimistic. Vaidya says Indian gasoline demand is already back to pre-pandemic levels and expects diesel to reach that milestone before the month-long Hindu festival season culminates with Diwali on Nov. 4. The period is considered auspicious for buying appliances, cars and new homes, which boosts demand for diesel used in transporting goods and ramping up factory assembly lines. Diesel demand is currently 10% below pre-pandemic levels, admits the IOC chairman who also thinks jet will take at least until next March to recover. Latest calculations from Energy Intelligence based on Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas data show Indian jet demand reaching 208,000 b/d during the first four months of the financial year to July, up 19,000 b/d on the same period of last year but still significantly below the 328,000 b/d hit before the pandemic between April-July 2019. Figures for the first half of August show Indian jet demand rising 25% month-on-month but gasoline and diesel buying falling 5% and 15%.

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