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India stockpiles low-cost oil, fills 32 million tonnes of commercial storage

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FILE PHOTO: A boy walks past an oil tanker train stationed at a railway station in Ghaziabad
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By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian refiners have stored about 32 million tonnes of oil in tanks, pipelines and on ships, taking advantage of low oil prices to help the nation cut its import bill, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday.

India, the world's third biggest oil importer, buys over 80% of its oil needs from overseas markets. The nation has annual refining capacity of about 250 million tonnes.

However, travel restrictions and curbs on industrial activity to stem the spread of COVID-19 have hit fuel consumption and crude processing in the country.

India has also diverted some of the state refiners' excess oil to fill the 5.03 million tonne strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs), helping companies which are struggling to find storage avoid charges for delays in offloading fresh cargo deliveries.

The companies have parked 7 million tonnes of oil in floating storage and 25 million tonnes in pipelines and storage tanks as oil prices plunged, Pradhan said on social media.

"India can meet around 20% of its domestic demand by storing low-priced priced crude oil," he said, adding that fuel demand would recover as economic activity picks up.

"Some activity picked up in rural India from April 17 and from today, activity will be stepped up in rest of the country, which will push up demand," he said.

The nationwide lockdown, among the world's strictest, is being relaxed in some areas with fewer infections, although it will last until May 17, the government said last week. The measure was adopted on March 25 and extended twice.

Indian demand for gasoil and gasoline started to recover in the second half of April.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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