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India's August oil imports fall on lower Russian shipments

FILE PHOTO: A man pours petrol into an underground tank at a fuel station in Mumbai

By Anjana Anil

(Reuters) - India's crude oil imports fell for a third month in a row in August, government data showed on Tuesday, as refiners in the world's third biggest importer carried out maintenance and reduced shipments from Russia.

Crude imports fell 3.9% month-on-month to 18.73 million metric tons in August, Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) data showed.

"Imports are down, which was expected due to refinery maintenance," said LSEG analyst Ehsan Ul Haq.

"Higher prices for Russian oil could also have led to lower imports by Indian refiners," said Haq, adding that demand could nevertheless pick up during the festive season.

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India's oil imports from Russia dropped in August to a seven-month low, trade flow data by Kpler and LSEG showed, as refiners cut purchases due to maintenance outages and narrowing discounts.

In July, India also increased the windfall tax on petroleum crude to limit private refiners making gains from robust refining margins in overseas markets, instead of selling at home.

However, the overall imports were still up 6.2% compared with the same month last year. Oil product imports also rose 26.5% to 4.06 million metric tons from August last year.

Oil product exports also rose 11.3% year-on-year to 5.83 million metric tons in July.

India's fuel consumption in August inched up from a 10-month low, as strong factory activity offset the usual monsoon lull.

An oil price rally to near $100 a barrel, driven by weak U.S. shale output and extended production cuts by Saudi Arabia and Russia, has driven expectations of tight supply.

(Reporting by Anjana Anil and Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Alexander Smith)