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IOC Expands Panipat Refinery Capacity While Managing Increased Costs and Timelines

Indian Oil Corp: IOC to set up India's first mega-scale Maleic Anhydride  Plant at Panipat, ET Auto

Introduction:

Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is expanding its Panipat oil refinery capacity by 66% to meet rising domestic fuel demand. However, the state-owned company has increased its expansion budget by 10% to Rs. 36,225 crore ($4.3 billion) and pushed back the completion date to December 2025 due to various factors.

Analysis for a layman:

IOC is adding units to its Panipat refinery to process more crude oil into fuels like petrol, diesel and jet fuel which are seeing strong demand growth in India. The cost and timeline has increased due to global inflation and supply chain issues. The new units will also produce petrochemicals used to make plastics and textiles. This will reduce IOC’s dependence on just selling conventional fuels.

Original Analysis:

The 10% cost increase to Rs. 36,225 crore for the Panipat expansion is not surprising given high global inflation in construction materials like steel and cement. Shipping delays and China’s zero-COVID policy have also disrupted global supply chains, leading to shortages. As a state-owned company, IOC is likely finding procedural delays in getting clearances. With the original September 2024 timeline no longer feasible, pushing the completion out by over a year is a prudent move.

Expanding petrochemical capacity via new naphtha cracker and polymer units shows IOC’s focus on meeting rapidly rising domestic demand. It will also improve refining margins as petchem products have better pricing than conventional fuels. Along with upcoming projects at other IOC refineries, this will de-risk revenue concentration away from transport fuels. While the cost and timeline changes are understandable in the current environment, IOC should focus on capital discipline. Past Indian refinery expansions have often seen large cost/time overruns.

Impact on Retail Investors:

The Panipat expansion delay from 2024 to late 2025 means IOC shares may underperform in the interim. But stock impact should moderate given the cost increase was a moderate 10%. As crude oil and refined product prices stabilize post-pandemic and Russia-Ukraine conflict, ioC’s bottomline will expanding capacity. The petchem thrust aligns with India’s push for self-reliance and import substitution. Over the longer term, higher complex margins from specialty chemicals will enable IOC to reward shareholders via dividends.

Retail investors should utilize any stock weakness to accumulate for the long term. Government deregulating petrol and diesel pricing will also enable IOC to benefit from demand growth. Gasoline consumption is expected to rise with increasing car sales. As the largest fuel retailer, IOC will see cash flows improve. Its forays into petchem, gas and renewables also reduce concentration risk compared to pure-play refiners. IOC remains a proxy for India’s broader economic growth.

Impact on Industries:

The costlier Panipat expansion will benefit steel, cement and construction companies supplying material and contracting services to the project. IOC’s overall move into petrochemicals will aid chemical companies as the PX-PTA-MEG value chain sees $14 billion investment. Textile manufacturers can benefit from domestic supply as polyester demand grows. Maker of packaging materials like plastics and containers will also gain from capacity creation downstream.

Refinery expansions will spur demand for crude oil, liquefied natural gas and naphtha feeds. Gas suppliers GAIL and Petronet LNG along with domestic oil producers Oil India and ONGC stand to benefit. Engineering & construction firms L&T, Thermax, Praj Industries etc. will see order inflows for building new units. Expansion of fuel stations and EV charging infra will help urban infra companies too.

Long Term Benefits & Negatives:

Over the long run, the Panipat expansion will anchor IOC as India’s largest refiner with a national market share rising from 28% to 29%. Along with other projects, IOC’s capacity will reach 87.9 million tonnes by 2026 – supporting growing fuel usage across transportation, industries and households. IOC’s petrochemical thrust will aid the Make in India program as domestic supply reduces import reliance. Specialty chemicals have higher margins than base chemicals or fuels retail.

However, the global energy transition away from oil & gas remains a challenge. As EVs gain share by 2030, gasoline demand may eventually peak. IOC’s foray into solar, wind and biofuels will hedge this risk. The government resisting petrol/diesel deregulation due to inflationary pressures can inhibit IOC’s profitability versus private refiners. Execution delays in the Panipat expansion may lead to further cost overruns. Any global recession due to high interest rates will also dampen near-term crude oil and refined product demand.

Short Term Benefits & Negatives:

The expansion delay means IOC will take over a year more to realize incremental revenue and operating leverage from the new units. This could extend the payback period to over 5 years. Given the capex has increased 10%, IOC’s credit metrics may weaken in the interim – restricting its ability to raise low-cost funding for growth projects. Other refiners like Reliance may be faster in seizing market share.

But the petchem units being added earlier will allow IOC to capture margin growth before the entire expansion is ready. Steady capacity additions across its refining system will see IOC meeting its 2026 vision of 88 million tonnes capacity well before deadline. In case global oil and chemical prices rise over 2024-2025, the yet-to-be commissioned units can fetch rich margins. The expansion may also lead to a re-rating for the stock.

Companies to Gain:

  • Refiners: IOC, BPCL, HPCL – Will see fuel demand growth with capacity expansion
  • Chemical: RIL, HMEL, Gail India – Integrated refining-petchem complexes will aid margins
  • Gas utilities: Guj State Petronet, Petronet LNG – Refinery operations are large consumers of gas
  • Crude suppliers: ONGC, Oil India – Domestic oil production to get premium over imported crude
  • Fuel retailers: IOC, BPCL, HPCL – Higher throughput will aid revenue and profitability
  • Auto OEMs: Maruti, M&M, Tata Motors – Refined fuels critical for automobile demand
  • Packaging: Supreme Petro, Essel Propack, Mold-Tek – Petchem capacity to spur packaging demand
  • Textiles: RIL, Welspun India – Polyester clothes and fabric makers to benefit
  • Construction: L&T, Ultratech Cement – Infra demand from expansion projects
  • Engineering & EPC: Thermax, Praj Industries – Execution of downstream chemical projects

Companies to Lose:

Smaller stand-alone refiners like Chennai Petroleum, MRPL face margin pressure as IOC enhances scale with integrated petchem. However, their plants are focused on southern region so impact will be gradual.

Upstream oil producers Gail India, ONGC, Oil India may gain from higher gas and crude oil demand. But refinery expansions will gradually reduce import dependence which dampens price premium for domestic production. These state-owned cos also face struggles to raise oil/gas output rapidly.

Incumbent auto-fuel retailers like IOC, Shell, Nayara Energy will all invest heavily into the secular growth of EV infrastructure and hydrogen. But demand for conventional petrol and diesel will eventually peak by 2030. This structurally dims prospects of pure liquid fuels marketing companies over the very long term.

Bulk chemical importers will see domestic self-sufficiency reducing raw material imports of chemicals like PTA, MEG, polypropylene etc. This hurts traders and isolate manufacturers not investing to expand local capacity.

Textile firms relying heavily on imported fabrics and fibres will face margin pressure versus integrated polyester/VSF producers who gain from upstream integration.

Small regional banks with high exposure to refining and petrochem sectors may see asset quality issues if the global economy enters recession leading to inventory losses.

Additional Insights:

The 10% cost increase, while not negligible, seems a prudent budget to counter global inflation and supply chain uncertainties. The 16 month delay is a more material change, but will likely prevent further timeline extensions.

Conclusion:

IOC’s Panipat refinery expansion forms a central pillar of its downstream capacity growth across fuels and chemicals. Despite manageable cost increases, IOC must focus on capital discipline for timely completion. While the delay will push back realization of financial benefits, integration into higher margin petrochemicals is the right strategy for long term value creation.

Citation:

PTI. (2023, December 3). IOC raises Panipat refinery expansion cost by 10%, pushes completion deadline by a year. The Economic Times. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

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