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Exploring the upstream and downstream oil pioneers of India

09 Feb 2024

The Indian oil & gas sector has a rich history dating back to 1867, when oil was first discovered near Digboi. Over the years, it has evolved significantly, with the Indian government taking strategic steps to enhance its self-sufficiency, especially in the wake of expanding gas reserves in the country. 

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas oversees all facets of the oil and gas industry, spanning exploration, production, refining, marketing, and distribution, as well as import, export, and conservation. Within this sector, clear-cut divisions are referred to as upstream, midstream and downstream production, signifying distinct phases in the production and distribution of oil. 

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This article will dive into India's leading upstream and downstream oil companies. We will try understanding their business approaches, exploration and production endeavours, refining capabilities, and distribution networks. 

What are upstream oil companies?

Upstream activities in the oil and gas industry are carried out by companies focused on identifying, extracting, and producing natural resources. These exploration and production firms are responsible for locating resource deposits, drilling wells, and extracting raw materials from beneath the earth's surface. 

This sector encompasses various associated services, including rig operations, feasibility assessments, machinery leasing, and the supply of chemicals used in the extraction process.

Upstream oil and gas companies

Here are the top three upstream oil and gas companies in India:  

ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation)

ONGC is a government-owned entity that is pivotal in India's oil and gas sector, primarily responsible for exploration and production activities. It stands as one of the largest and most prominent oil and gas exploration firms in Asia, extending its operations to numerous countries across the globe.

Reliance Industries Limited 

Reliance industries are private enterprises actively engaging in oil and gas exploration and production within India. Its operational footprint encompasses various regions of the country, including the significant KG-D6 block situated in the Krishna-Godavari basin.

Oil India Limited

A Navratna company and a trailblazer in India's oil and gas exploration arena, Oil India holds a diverse collection of onshore and offshore assets, both within the country and overseas. The company efficiently manages 26 drilling rigs and maintains a notable presence in countries like Libya, Mozambique, and Yemen.

What are downstream oil companies?

Downstream companies in the oil and gas industry operate closer to the end-user or consumer, handling activities from the post-production phase to the point of sale. These entities involved in downstream processes encompass oil refineries, distributors of petroleum products, petrochemical plants, providers of natural gas distribution services, and various retail outlets.

Downstream oil and gas companies

Here are the top three downstream oil and gas companies in India:  

Indian Oil Corporation 

IOC, a government-owned entity, focuses on the refining, marketing, and distribution of oil and gas products within India. It boasts the country's most extensive network of fuel stations and is actively engaged in petrochemical production.

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited

Headquartered in Mumbai, BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited) is a state-owned oil and gas company with a substantial refining capacity of 15.5 million metric tonnes per annum. BPCL efficiently operates two refineries in Mumbai and Kochi and maintains a vast network of over 18,000 retail outlets across India.

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited

HPCL is yet another government-owned enterprise in the oil and gas sector and possesses a refining capacity of 18.5 MMTPA. HPCL strategically operates refineries in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam and manages a comprehensive network of over 16,000 retail outlets across India. The company's presence extends beyond India, with operations in countries like Sri Lanka and Mauritius.

Future projections for India 

India aims to boost its refining capacity to 450-500 million tonnes by 2030, doubling its current capacity, in response to strong ongoing economic growth. As a result, India's energy demand is anticipated to outpace that of other major global economies, with its share of global energy demand projected to rise from 6% in 2017 to 11% in 2040. 

This growth has led to a significant market for oil, set to double in size by 2045. 

In conclusion, upstream and downstream oil companies play crucial roles in the entire crude oil supply chain, covering exploration, production, refinement, and distribution, making them essential contributors to India's expanding energy sector.


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