India looks to Africa afresh for strategic oil

New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) Energy-starved India, which imports around 75 percent of its crude oil needs, is looking afresh at Africa to tap the continent’s vast and yet unexplored hydrocarbon assets, for both exploration and production, as also long-term contracts, official sources said.

This will be the main agenda when India hosts fourth India-Africa hydrocarbon conference here Thursday-Friday to forge what is being termed as a “development transmitting” pact – with the aim of enhancing India’s energy security and capacity building in Africa.

“What people may not know is India already imports 15 percent of its crude oil from Africa — around 30-32 million tonnes — mainly from Nigeria and Angola. Our import of liquefied natural gas also doubled in the past two years,” said an official source.

“At the same time, our oil refineries are also major exporters — and here, Africa accounts for a significant share. It is the second largest destination. From 17 percent of exports of our refined products, it is expected to rise to around 20 percent over the next five years.”

Officials also said that crude accounts for two-thirds of total imports from Africa while petroleum products account for one third of India’s exports to Africa.

The conference is being hosted by India’s oil ministry, led by Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, and follows the India-Africa Forum Summit in October last year where energy was slotted as the third major focus area of cooperation.

As many as 25 African nations have been invited for the conference and nine of them will be represented by their ministers, the sources said.

They said that India’s dependence on oil imports will increase in the coming years due to its growing energy needs and the country was looking to diversify its sourcing of crude while also acquiring hydrocarbon assets.

“The partnership would enable India to enhance its energy security while nurturing Africa’s hydrocarbon sector growth on several fronts,” an official source said.

The sources said that imports from Africa play a significant role in meeting the demands of India and Nigeria stood as the second largest supplier of crude oil to India in June 2015.

The government was also giving a push to the Indian national oil companies to enhance their partnerships with African nations, they said, adding that Indian state owned enterprises have invested over $5 billion in gas exploration in Mozambique.

The conference is expected to chart out a road map for extended energy cooperation between India and Africa in the coming days while also suggesting ways to boost bilateral trade.

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