Vasundhara Raje hits out at HPCL refinery plans

Vol 17, PW 13 (13 Feb 14) Midstream & Downstream

Rajasthan’s new chief minister Vasundhara Raje has taken a hostile position to Hindustan Petroleum's proposed 9m t/y Barmer refinery, the pet project of her Congress predecessor Ashok Gehlot.

Some say Raje’s hostility is a clever ruse to pressurise HPCL into giving the Rajasthan government a controlling stake. Alarmed HPCL officials wrote to BJP party member Raje last month (January) asking for a meeting so they could defend the Rs37,230cr ($6bn) project, first proposed in 2009.

Raje criticised the Barmer project in her inaugural speech on January 30, questioning why HPCL holds 74% while the Rajasthan government holds just 26%. Raje, who took charge as chief minister on December 13, has also set up a cabinet sub-committee headed by minister GC Kataria to examine all the decisions of the previous Congress government, including the refinery.

Raje is unhappy with Gehlot’s move to grant HPCL 4800 acres of government land, an annual financial package of Rs3376cr ($540m) for the next 15 years, and 28m gallons/day of free water. She vented her anger by moving state mines and petroleum secretary Sudhansh Pant to the low profile agriculture department on January 5.

Pant signed the joint venture agreement for Barmer with HPCL on July 13, 2013. Keenly watching the outcome of Raje's Barmer "witch-hunt" will be potential technology providers Shell, ExxonMobil, Kellogg Brown & Root and Chevron.

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