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RPT-UPDATE 1-Indian refiners' November crude processing hits eight-month high

(Repeats story published on Tuesday)

* India’s refinery throughput highest since March

* Indian refiners’ utilization rate the most since February

* Top oil refiner back at full capacity first time since COVID-19

Dec 22 (Reuters) - Crude oil processed by Indian refiners rose to an eight-month high in November as demand for fuel increased on the back of the country’s gradual economic recovery from the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crude oil throughput in November jumped 16% from the previous month to 5.08 million barrels per day (20.78 million tonnes) but was still about 5.1% down year on year, provisional government data showed on Tuesday.

“Most of the sectors have started their manufacturing activities close to full capacity and hence the decline is narrowing month on month,” said Sunilkumar Katke, head of currencies and commodities at Axis Securities.

“We are also seeing many organisations going back to 100% work from office guidelines in a step by step manner, supporting demand from the transport sector.”

India’s fuel consumption also rose for a third straight month in November, data showed this month.

India on Tuesday recorded its lowest daily increase in coronavirus cases since July 3, according to health ministry data, but it still has the world’s second highest number of infections, passing 10 million cases over the weekend.

Indian refiners operated at an average rate of 101.2%, the most since February and up from 86.7% in October, the data showed.

Top refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC) operated its directly owned plants at 108.4% capacity, the data showed.

Refineries can operate at more than their usual capacity through technical alterations.

IOC operated nine of its plants in November at 100% capacity for the first time since February, to meet rising local fuel demand, it said in a statement this month.

Reliance, owner of the world’s biggest refining complex, operated its plants at 97.81% capacity.

On an annual basis, India’s crude oil production fell by 4.9% to 2.49 million tonnes (610,000 barrels per day), data showed.

Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri and Shreyansi Singh in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman

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