NEW DELHI - India's private oil refiners are willing to work with state-run peers to bargain collectively for better oil import deals, oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Friday, as the nation looks to cut its import bill.
India is forming a group bringing together state and private refiners to seek better crude import deals, Reuters reported on Monday.
"The outcome of the meeting between private and state-run (refiners on a joint oil procurement plan) was very encouraging," Puri said in a news conference at the India Energy Forum industry event.
He said the private companies are "enthused" by the plan.
India is the world's third-largest oil importer and consumer, reliant on imports for about 85% of its crude and buying most of that from Middle East producers.
Private companies including Reliance Industries, operator of the world's biggest refining complex, and Nayara Energy, partly owned by Russian oil major Rosneft, control about 40% of India's 5 million barrel per day (bpd) refining capacity.
With local gasoline and gasoil prices rising to record highs in India's worst power crisis for years, the nation wants to redouble efforts to buy wisely.
India's trade deficit last month surged to a record $22.6 billion, its highest in at least 14 years, driven by expensive imports.
India has repeatedly asked the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, together known as OPEC+, to boost output to bring down global oil prices.
"Cost of energy should not be allowed to outstrip paying capacity of consumers and this imperative needs to be configured by the consuming countries in planning their production profile for the future," Puri said.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma Editing by David Goodman) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +91 11 49548031; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))