Inflation tames petroleum taxes
The excise duty on petrol was reduced by INR 5 per litre (/l) and the excise on diesel was reduced by INR 10/l by the central government on 4 November 2021. This settled the retail price of petrol in Delhi at INR 103.97/l which is still higher than the average retail price of petrol in Delhi of INR 101.89/l in October 2021. The retail price of diesel at INR 86.67/l after the reduction in excise is lower than the price of INR 90.17/l in October 2021. Excise duty (central levy) on petrol from October 2020 to October 2021 was unchanged at INR 32.9/l until the reduction by 15 percent to INR 27.90/l but value added tax (VAT) levied by the state government increased by 35 percent from ₹17.71/l to ₹23.99/l in Delhi. For diesel excise has remained unchanged at INR 32.83/l until it was reduced by 31 percent to INR 21.80/l on 4 November 2021, but VAT was also reduced by 22 percent from INR 16.26/l to INR 12.68/l in Delhi in the same period.
Trends in Excise and Value Added Tax
In 2015, global oil prices fell to around US $40/barrel (b) following OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) decision spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, not to reduce oil output despite an increase in tight oil production from the USA. This protected market share of OPEC countries at the expense of oil revenue. The fall in global crude oil prices provided an opportunity to the Indian government to increase taxes on petrol and diesel. Changes in crude prices are not passed on to the consumer and, therefore, any fall in crude prices could be filled up by taxes by the government. For every US $1/b fall in the crude price, the government can increase taxes by about INR 0.5/l without any change in the retail prices and the government has exploited this opportunity since 2015 to raise revenue.
Between March 2014 and October 2021, the excise on petrol charged by the central government increased by over 200 percent and the excise on diesel by over 600 percent. The VAT on petrol in Delhi increased by about 97 percent and that on diesel by about 118 percent in the same period. Other states also increased VAT substantially in this period. Central excise revenue from oil increased by over 163 percent from INR 1.72 trillion (US $23 billion) in 2014–15 to over INR 4.5 trillion (US $60.2 billion) in 2020-21. As most of the excise duty is charged as special or additional cess, which is not shared with the states, almost all the sum collected as excise on petrol and diesel goes to the central government. In the same period (March 2014-October 2021), VAT revenue from oil products increased by over 35 percent from over INR 1.6 trillion (US $21.4 billion) to over INR 2.1 trillion (US $28 billion). The low crude price window that allowed the government, both at the centre and the state, to raise tax revenue appears to be closing now that crude prices are demonstrating a steady upward trend.
The price of the Indian basket of crude at US $82.11/b is now close to the price in 2014-15, when it averaged US$84.16/b. Between May 2020—when global crude prices plunged following the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO)—and October 2020, the price of crude has increased by over 120 percent. Excise on both petrol and diesel remained constant in this period, but VAT (in Delhi) on petrol increased by 43 percent and VAT on diesel (Delhi) decreased by 18 percent. Overall, between May 2020 and October 2021, the 42-percent increase in the retail price of petrol can be partly attributed to the increase in global crude prices and partly to the increase in VAT. For diesel, the entire 29 percent increase in the retail price can be attributed to increase in global crude prices because excise did not increase, and VAT decreased by 18 percent.
Crude Price Forecasts
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), crude oil prices increased over the past year as result of steady draws on global oil inventories, which averaged 1.9 million barrels per day (b/d) during the first three quarters (calendar year) of 2021. OPEC+ announcement in October that production targets will remain unchanged also contributed to the increase in crude price. EIA expects Brent crude prices to remain near current levels for the rest of 2021, averaging US$ 82/b in the fourth quarter of 2021. In 2022, EIA expects an annual average price of US $72/b because growth in oil production from OPEC+, increase in tight oil production from USA as well as from other non-OPEC countries is expected to outpace growth in oil demand. The World Bank expects average crude oil prices to be around US $70/b in 2021 and around US $74/b in 2022. Most of the international banks have projected much higher average price for crude oil in 2021 and 2022. Bank of America has forecast a price of US $120/b for Brent crude in 2022. Goldman Sachs expects oil prices to touch US $90/b by the end of 2021 and remain at about US $85/b in 2022. UBS and IHS Markits have also not ruled out US $90/b by the end of 2021.
Energy Price Inflation
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has shown that a sustained increase in crude price could increase the current account deficit (CAD) to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, increase the fiscal deficit and cause an increase inflation, if price increase is passed on directly to the final consumers. The most recent report from the RBI observes that petrol and diesel registered double digit inflation consecutively since July 2020 and that sustained increase in international crude oil prices has kept petrol and diesel inflation firm at 23.8 percent and the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) petrol and diesel inflation at 54.2 percent in August 2021. It was this concern over inflation that drove the central government to reduce excise on 4 November 2021. State governments are expected to reduce VAT for the same reason. Given the upward trend in crude oil prices and the continued pressure on inflation, it is likely that the government will have to wait for another year or two before it can raise taxes on petroleum products.
Monthly News Commentary: Natural Gas
Natural Gas Price increase will boost Production
Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has put a second well in its promising KG basin block into production. ONGC had achieved first gas from the US $5 billion (bn) KG-DWN-98/2 or KG-D5 project in the Krishna Godavari basin in the Bay of Bengal in June last year. Augmenting production from the project thereafter got hit by supply disruption world over caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Considered to be the largest subsea project in India, block 98/2 is expected to have a total peak gas production rate of around 16 million metric standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd), with peak oil production rate estimated to be 80,000 barrels per day (bpd). The block sits next to the KG-D6 block of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and its partner BP Plc of UK. A total of 34 wells are planned to be drilled as part of the KG-DWN-98/2 project including 15 oil-producing wells and eight gas-producing wells.
According to Motilal Oswal Financial Services, India’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) regasification operable capacity is expected to rise by 12 million metric tonnes per annum (mmtpa) due to removal of constraints at existing LNG terminals. Nearly 24 mmtpa of capacity additions are underway at Dahej and greenfield terminals at Chhara, Jafrabad, Dhamra and Jaigarh over the next few years. Just the KG Basin is expected to result in 45 mmscmd of incremental domestic gas (i.e., 47 percent of the domestic gas consumption). India currently has an LNG regasification capacity of 42.5 mmtpa, however, the operable capacity is 30 mmtpa. With the completion of major pipelines like Jagdishpur-Haldia, Mehsana-Bhatinda, Kochi-Bangalore and upcoming northeast gas grid, India’s total…