Dharmendra Pradhan, Indian Oil Minister, speaks to the media in New Delhi. Image Credit: Chiranjib Sengupta/Gulf News

New Delhi: India is looking at the UAE as a preferred partner for hydrocarbon projects across the country as part of the $75 billion infrastructure investment fund both nations announced last year, even as it plans to ramp up its crude imports from the UAE by 15 per cent, the Indian oil minister said on Wednesday.

Dharmendra Pradhan, the Indian Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, also said the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) had successfully partnered the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Limited (ISPRL) to store crude at India’s soon-to-be completed strategic oil reserve project in Mangalore.

“We are very happy that the UAE is interested in the strategic reserve project, and Adnoc and ISPRL are working to sort out all issues for early implementation of the project,” Pradhan told a press conference in the Indian capital yesterday. “Adnoc will partner ISPRL for phase 1 of the project, while an agreement for a similar arrangement for the second phase has also been proposed. But there are certain taxation, VAT and revenue related issues — these are being dealt with on an urgent basis,” he said.

India imports nearly 80% of its crude oil and is constructing vast underground storages in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states to store more than 5.30 million metric tonnes (MMT) of crude for emergencies. The facility in Mangalore, when completed, will have a capacity of 1.5 MMT.

Pradhan said India was also on track to increase its oil imports from the UAE. “The UAE makes up for 8 per cent of India’s oil imports. The total imports from UAE amount to 16.11 MMT for the current fiscal, of which Indian public sector companies imported 10.2 MMT. In the next financial year, India will increase its imports from the UAE by another 2.5 million MMT,” he said.

His comments came following a meeting with the UAE’s Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei yesterday, ahead of the arrival of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on a three-day official visit to India.

“Today we discussed a lot of hydrocarbon projects and the discussion was very fruitful and cooperative,” Pradhan said. “We have placed several proposals for consideration before the UAE as part of the $75 billion investment plan. These include scope for investments in refineries, LNG terminals and pipelines — from the OPaL petrochem complex in Gujarat to the HPCL-GAIL petrochemical complex in Andhra Pradesh to Bina refinery expansion in Madhya Pradesh.”

Pradhan also said that there was a lot of untapped potential on both sides in the hydrocarbon sector. “Indian state oil companies such as ONGC, IOL and BPCL are all interested in seeking exploration opportunities in the UAE, while others are interested in acquiring a stake in the Abu Dhabi Oil Company (ADCO) for onshore oil operations,” he said.

Queried on the challenges faced by UAE companies in their bid to expand into India, Pradhan said: “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured global investors about the ease of doing business in India. The confidence that exists between UAE and India will also create a new synergy between the government and investors. In my sector, I can assure everyone that no such issues will recur and all cooperation will be extended to UAE companies.”

During Modi’s visit to the UAE last year, both countries had announced the setting up of a UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund, with the aim of reaching a target of $75 billion.