Reliance plans to increase number of aviation fuel stations by 50%

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd. plans to increase the number of its aviation fuel stations by 50%, in an attempt to capture greater share of a market controlled by state-run oil marketing companies.

In its annual report for 2019-20, Reliance said the double-digit growth observed over 52 consecutive months might have been stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but India continues to be one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world for the fifth consecutive year.

RIL, which operates the world's largest single-location oil refining complex, plans to capture this opportunity through increased presence at airports to refuel airplanes. "On account of network strength, cost competitiveness, industry leading technology and best-in-class service standards, RIL improved its volume share in the domestic market," according to the annual report.

Reliance Aviation has the highest market share in 20% of the operating airports. "RIL is looking to increase its network to 45 locations as against 30 at the end of FY20 and is well geared to benefit with the growth in the Indian aviation market," it said.

India currently has 256 aviation fuel stations, with Indian Oil Corp. Ltd. owning 119 of them. Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. has 61 and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. the remaining 44. RIL is the largest private aviation fuel retailer with 31 stations, according to latest data from the oil ministry.

RIL’s presence in the auto fuel retailing segment is also small when compared to the state-run oil firms. Out of 69,392 petrol pumps in India, RIL operates 1,398. Indian Oil has the highest number of outlets at 29,208, followed by HPCL with 16,557 and BPCL 16,309.

Russia's Rosneft OAO-backed Nayara Energy is the biggest private auto fuel retailer with 5,720 petrol pumps. According to the annual report, RIL registered 9.8% and 14.7% growth in retail sales of diesel and petrol, respectively, in FY20. Average sales volume at a sales outlet rose 10% in the previous fiscal.