Oil Refining in India

The Asia Pacific region caters to the largest oil refineries of the world. India itself hosts the largest refinery complex which is followed by nations like Venezuela and South Korea. With a huge processing capacity, Jamnagar Oil refinery in India in the state of Gujarat is the largest in the world. 1.24 million Barrels per day are the aggregate capacity of the refinery. The refinery is owned and operated by Reliance group of Industries.  Various finished products are obtained from oil refineries comprising of several units. Apart from Reliance group, IOCL, BPCL, HPCL, MRPL,  Essar Oil, Cals Refinery, Nagarjuna Oil and Chennai Petro are some of the other oil refinery groups operating in India. Except for the last three mentioned refineries, all the others are significantly profit making bodies with Reliance earning the largest profit.

In April 2014, India’s oil refining capacity was measured to be 215 MMTPA (Million metric tonnes per annum). This placed India in fifth position in the world’s oil refining capacity chart right after United States, China, Russia and Japan.  Refined crude output in the year 2012-2013 was found to be 211 MMT in India.

The basic units of oil refineries in India

The Jamnagar unit of the oil refinery in Gujarat is spread across 7500 acres. It comprises of more than 50 process units to refine basic feedstock and crude oil. The units are delayed coking units, fluid catalytic cracking, catalytic reforming and hydrodesulphurization units. Apart from that other units like Sulfur recovery unit, Hydrogen generation block, merox treating section and TAME (Tertiary Amyl Methyl Ether) blocks also exist. Many refineries under IOCL (Indian Oil corporation Ltd.) in order to meet motor spirit quality requirements started off with many other units like, Isomerisation Units and diesel and VGO Hydrotreater units. The refineries under IOCL are mostly compliant with BS-III/BS-IV Motor Spirit and diesel quality requirements.

Quality improvements in oil refining in India due to introduction of Auto Fuel Policy

Under the Environment Protection Act 1996 initiatives were taken to reduce vehicular emissions and improve auto fuel quality. Some of them have been listed below which were tightened in the year 1996 and 2000 for betterment.

  • In 1995 catalytic converters were introduced for production of lead free Gasoline for vehicles, and total lead free gasoline was achieved by India in the year 2000 February.
  • RON or Octane no of Gasoline was increased in the year 2000 from 87 to 89.
  • Content of Sulfur in Gasoline was brought down from 0.2% wt to 0.1% wt in the year 2000. Maximum permissible Sulfur content in Gasoline was limited to 0.05% (500 parts per million) wt for supply in the metro cities.
  • Benzene content in Gasoline was 3% volume in metro cities /5% volume at maximum for other places in India.
  • In the year 2000 Sulfur content in diesel was also reduced from 1.05% wt to 0.25% wt. For metro cities it was reduced to 0.05% wt. that is 500 ppm.
  • In the year 2000 the Cetane number of diesel in India was increased from 45 to 48.
  • 10,000 crores was invested by the oil refineries in India to revamp their technologies prior to Auto Fuel Policy
  • Apart from high value investments, production cost for achieving improvements in quality of auto fuels was substantial. This was due to rise in requirements of energy, Hydrogen, fuel and more generation of low cost byproducts.
  • In order to meet Bharat Stage III & IV norms, some of the oil refineries in India are able to produce two different qualities of diesel and petrol.

With new technologies replacing the old ones, oil refining capacity of India is to rise by 43% a year by the year 2017. With many more challenges to overcome, oil refining in India will still hold a major chunk in the global market share.