India's natural gas consumption starts to rebound in June

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The logo of India's state-owned natural gas utility GAIL (India) Ltd is pictured on its corporate office building in New Delhi, India, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

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NEW DELHI, June 9 (Reuters) - India's natural gas consumption is recovering in June after declining in the previous two months, as states ease restrictions in the wake of a drop in coronavirus infections, officials said on Wednesday.

"In the Indian market there was some slowdown, but the situation is not as bad as last year," Manoj Jain, chairman of GAIL (India) (GAIL.NS), the country's biggest gas pipeline operator, said at a news briefing to announce quarterly results.

He said gas consumption in April and May fell by about 10% to 15% compared to a 50% reduction last year when there was a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.

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Instead of a national lockdown, the state governments imposed their own restrictions to stem the spread of deadly second wave of COVID-19. The states, however, started this month to ease the curbs after the decline in reported infections.

Gas consumption has returned to its normal level in the last week, Jain said.

The COVID-19 pandemic, globally and in India, is causing "significant disturbance in economic and business activities. It has also temporarily impacted the business activities of the Company," GAIL said in a stock exchange filing.

The company, however, has now achieved a pre-pandemic operational level of operations, it said.

Petronet LNG, the country's top gas importer, is operating its 17.5 million tonne-per-year Dahej terminal in western Gujarat state at 87% capacity, its chief executive, A.K. Singh, said at a separate news briefing.

The company was operating India's biggest LNG import plant at about 80% capacity in April and May, he said, adding that higher spot prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pandemic-induced lockdowns in states had dented gas demand in the last two months.

Due to falling local gas consumption in April and May, GAIL diverted two cargoes to international markets while Petronet deferred one cargo for delivery in June.

GAIL's Jain, however, said India's gas consumption could grow by 6% to 8% in the current fiscal year if the country emerged from the pandemic.

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Reporting by Nidhi Verma Editing by Paul Simao

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