Oman refineries cut fuel output as pandemic hits demand

State-owned OQ (formerly Oman Oil and Orpic Group), which owns and operates the Sultanate’s two principal refineries, reported a sharp decline in the production of motor fuels during the first five months of this year, reflecting a dramatic slump in demand as many people remained homebound in line with lockdown measures imposed by authorities to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Production of the M91 grade of gasoline plummeted a hefty 30 per cent to 4.409 million barrels for the January – May period of this year, down from 6.628 million barrels for the corresponding period of 2019.  The output of the premium M95 grade fell 17 per cent to 4.549 million barrels this year, down from 5.490 million during the first five months of 2019.

Aviation fuel production slid 32 per cent to 4.150 million barrels this year versus 6.119 million barrels for the same period in 2019.  Output of LPG (cooking gas) declined 17 per cent to 2.677 million barrels this year, from 3.209 million barrels during Jan – May 2019.  The only bright spot was gas oil (diesel), production of which climbed 19 per cent to 13.326 million barrels this year, up from 11.170 million barrels last year.

The collapse in demand for motor fuels, as well as jet fuel, forced the temporary shutdown of OQ’s Mina al Fahal refinery in Muscat, according to officials of the Ministry of Oil and Gas.

With pandemic containment measures, coupled with work-from-home practices, coming into force in March, vehicular traffic was reduced to a minimum on the Sultanate’s roads.

According to figures released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), domestic sales of M91 gasoline plunged 28 per cent during the first five months of the year. The decline was equally significant for other refined petroleum products: M95 (16 per cent), gas oil (14 per cent), and aviation fuel (44 per cent).

Domestic sales of cooking gas, in contrast, climbed 12 per cent during this period, reflecting an uptick in home cooking as families and other people were largely confined indoors during the lockdown.