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Govt eases rules for setting up petrol pumps


New Delhi

In the biggest reform in fuel retailing sector in almost two decades, the government on Wednesday relaxed norms for setting up petrol pumps, allowing non-oil companies to venture into the business – a move that could help private and foreign firms to enter the world’s fastest-growing market.

At present, to obtain a fuel retailing licence in India, a company needs to invest Rs 2,000 crore in either hydrocarbon exploration and production, refining, pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.

Companies with a net worth of Rs 250 crore will be allowed to sell petrol and diesel subject to condition that they install facilities for marketing of at least one new generation alternate fuel such as CNG, LNG, biofuels or electric vehicle charging within three years of start of operations, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said here.

The retailers will necessarily have to set up 5 per cent of the total outlets in rural areas within five years, he said while briefing reporters on the decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The new policy will bring in more investment and give a fillip to ‘Ease of Doing Business’. It will boost direct and indirect employment in the sector. Setting up of more retail outlets (ROs) will result in better competition and better services for consumers,” he said. The government had last set fuel marketing conditions in 2002 and the review now is based on the recommendation of a high-level expert committee.

The move will facilitate entry of global giants such as Total SA of France, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, BP Plc of UK and Trafigura’s downstream arm Puma Energy.

Total in partnership with Adani Group had in November 2018 applied for a license to retail petrol and diesel through 1,500 outlets. BP too has formed a partnership with Reliance Industries to set up petrol pumps, but is yet to make a formal

While Puma Energy had applied for a retail licence, Aramco was in talks to enter the sector.

State-owned oil marketing companies – Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) – currently own most of 65,554 petrol pumps in the country.

Reliance Industries, Nayara Energy – formerly Essar Oil – and Royal Dutch Shell are the private players in the market but with limited presence. Reliance has less than 1,400 outlets. Nayara has 5,344 while Shell has just 160 pumps.

BP plc of UK had a couple of years back secured a licence to set up 3,500 pumps but has not yet started doing so. It is now venturing into the business with Reliance with plans to scale up Reliance’s present network strength to 5,500.

“The entities seeking market authorization for petrol and diesel are allowed to apply for retail and bulk authorization separately or both,” an official statement issued on CCEA decision said.

The companies have been given flexibility in setting up a joint venture or subsidiary for market authorization. “In addition to conventional fuels, the authorized entities are required to install facilities for marketing at least one new generation alternate fuel, like CNG, LNG, biofuels, electric charging, etc. At their proposed retail outlets within 3 years of operationalization of the said outlet,” it said.

“An individual may be allowed to obtain a dealership of more than one marketing company in case of open dealerships of PSU oil marketing companies but at different sites.”

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