By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A recovery in fuel demand in India gathered momentum in the first half of May versus April as curbs on transport and industrial activity were partly lifted in areas that have contained the spread of coronavirus, data from industry sources showed.
Demand for refined fuel is expected to get another boost from Monday as India has lifted more restrictions under its extended lockdown that runs until May 31.
Fuel demand growth in India, the world's third-biggest oil importer and consumer, plunged to historic lows in April.
State-refiners' petrol sales in the first half of May declined by 47.5% to 570,000 tonnes from a year ago but were up from 334,000 tonnes sold in first half of April. In April, petrol sales declined 61%.
State companies - Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat Petroleum - own about 90% of India's retail fuel outlets.
State companies' sale of gasoil fell about 38% to about 1.93 million tonnes in first half of May from a year earlier. In April, they had fallen by an average of 57%. In the first half of April, the refiners sold 1.1 million tonnes of gasoil.
Indian refiners, which had cut crude processing because of a fall in fuel demand, are now gradually raising output.
India's overall refined fuel demand includes consumption of fuel oil, bitumen and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
State retailers sold 24% more LPG in the first half of May from a year ago at 1.2 million tonnes. This compared with a 12% increase in April.
India's LPG sales are rising as the country is providing free cooking gas cylinders to the poor for three months to June to help them weather the impact of the lockdown.
Sales of jet fuel plunged by 88% to 39,000 tonnes during the first half of May versus a fall of 92% in April, the data showed.
In the first half of April, refiners sold 19,000 tonnes of jet fuel and 1.07 million tonnes of LPG.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma. Editing by Jane Merriman)