Shale Boom Brings Latin American Oil Bonus For Indian Refiners

Clear signs of a change, though, emerged earlier this month when Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals (MRPL) became the first Indian refiner to buy Argentina's medium-sweet Escalante grade.

"In 2007, we first thought of buying Latin American oil but we were not prepared," said MRPL Managing Director P.P. Upadhya.

"I visited Venezuela. A team of officials visited some Latin American countries in 2011. They did not have spare oil," he added. "Now, the market dynamics have changed and I got my first high acid oil cargo from the region in a tender."

And more complex facilities are coming up in the country that will further the trend.

Indian Oil Corp's (IOC) 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) Paradip refinery will start operations in June. By 2016, Chennai Petroleum's coker unit will be commissioned and a 120,000 bpd expansion of Bharat Petroleum Corp's (BPCL) Kochi refinery is set to be completed.

Changing Crude Basket

The United States has reined in buying from Latin America as its own shale oil output takes off. North America added 1 million bpd to global supply in 2013 alone, the Energy Information Agency says, and crossed the threshold to be a net exporter late last year, putting more supplies on the market.

In 2005/06, Latin American oil accounted for a scant 2.3 percent, or 46,200 bpd, of India's crude imports but by 2012/13 that had jumped to about a fifth, or 672,400 bpd. Just under half of that - 300,000 bpd - was under a long-term deal between Venezuela and privately-owned Reliance Industries, that has a huge, world-class refinery on India's west coast.


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