Assam: too many refineries, not enough crude

Vol 4, PW 11 (05 Jul 00) Midstream & Downstream

Authorities in Assam are keen to downplay the simmering dispute with General Electric.

Contacted by Petrowatch, Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said he was confident the row would be resolved soon. Mahanta's concern stems from his personal involvement with the Numaligarh refinery project since its inception.

As president of the All Assam Student Union, it was Mahanta who in 1985 signed an accord with Delhi committing central government to build a refinery at Numaligarh - a move that calmed local anger at Delhi's perceived indifference to the region. "He sees the refinery as his achievement," writes a correspondent, "He doesn't want stories circulating which show the project in a poor light." A potentially more serious problem facing Numaligarh Refinery, admit local officials, is finding a regular and stable source of crude oil.

Against total refining capacity of 7m t/y (see below) local production from ONGC and Oil India is barely 2m t/y. The rest has to be imported into the inhospitable region by truck.

Problems at Numaligarh make it difficult to see how the refinery can fulfil a promise to supply petro-products to neighbouring Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh have held regular talks on the supply of LPG, kerosene and diesel from Numaligarh by railway, road and river.

Refineries in the Assam region of northeast India Capacity Throughput Name Commissioned Original Present 1997-98 1998-99 Digboi (IOC) 1901 30,000 t/y 650,000 t/y 502,000 tonnes 558,000 tonnes Bongaigaon (stand-alone) 1979 1m t/y 2.35m t/y 1.718m tonnes 1.673m tonnes Guwahati (IOC) 1962 750,000 t/y 1m t/y 856,000 tonnes 838,000 tonnes Numaligarh (BPCL) 2000 3m t/y 3m t/y N/A N/A Total 7m t/y