Indian refiner BPCL aims to invest $13.6 bln to diversify

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A man paints the logo of oil refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL) on a wall on the outskirts of Kochi, India, November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Sivaram V

NEW DELHI, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Indian refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL.NS) will invest 1 trillion rupees ($13.55 billion) over five years to strengthen its petrochemicals, renewables and alternatives fuels businesses to de-risk itself from volatility in global markets, company Chairman A.K. Singh said.

"Energy landscape is changing fast and energy transition towards a low-carbon future has accelerated. BPCL is actively exploring new business opportunities for sustained growth," Singh said at a press conference on Monday.

India, the world's third biggest oil importer and consumer, wants to gradually raise the share of cleaner fuels in its energy mix to cut its carbon footprint.

Indian refiners, which are traditionally geared to maximise output of gasoil and gasoline, are widening their product slate by improving efficiency and installing petrochemical production units.

Singh said his company would invest 300 billion rupees for petrochemical expansion and 200 billion rupees for strengthening its gas business. If penetration of electric vehicles accelerates and the economy does not do well, then diesel can be upgraded to petrochemicals, he said.

The company is in the process of converting its 7,000 fuel outlets into energy stations that have EV charging facilities and sell fuels such as gas and hydrogen.

Singh said while India's gasoline sales this month grew by 7%-8% above pre-COVID levels, gasoil is still lagging by 6%-7%.

Referring to high spot prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG), he said the Indian power sector cannot afford LNG at these prices but there is still some demand from the fertiliser sector.

State-run BPCL is the country's second-biggest fuel retailer and third-largest refiner.

The government hopes to privatise the company in this fiscal year to March 2022 by selling its 53.29% stake to private entities.

The company also plans to invest 50 billion rupees for expanding its renewable energy capacity to 1,000 megawatts in five years from the current 45 megawatts, he said.

($1 = 73.8130 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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