June 12, 2019
Residents of Nanar village in Ratnagiri district stage a protest against the proposed oil refinery project. (file photo) - The Hindu
Maharashtra could end up losing the mega Ratnagiri refinery if no decision on its revised land allotment is made by August.
The 60-million-tonne (mt) project has already been delayed by nearly two years and the stakeholders are clearly in no mood to wait forever. “Going by the present timetable, the first phase will be commissioned by 2025. Delaying this further is just not worth anyone’s while,” said an industry source familiar with the project’s pace of progress.
The original location for the refinery was Nanar in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district but this was scrapped in March this year following protests by the locals. They did not want the project commissioned in an environmentally-sensitive region and it was only a matter of time before this became a political issue between the ruling BJP and the Shiv Sena.
The project was eventually shelved though the State government assured the stakeholders that an alternative location would be offered. Land was identified at Raigad district but little progress could be made subsequently, as the country was heading for elections.
With the BJP now back in power at the Centre, the stakeholders of Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals (RRPCL) are keen that the land is allotted soon. They need to wrap up several other formalities as well before work can begin in right earnest.
The target is to have 40 mt of capacity in place initially before enhancing this to 60 mt beyond 2025. The lead promoters of RRPCL are Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company with 25 per cent equity each while IndianOil, BPCL and HPCL take up the balance 50 per cent.
“Two years have already gone by and it is pointless to keep things hanging for so long,” added the source. The Maharashtra government is keen to retain the project because it is a big deal from the viewpoint of investments and employment generation potential, and Assembly elections are round the corner.
However, the RRPCL stakeholders need to be reassured that work on an alternative location, Raigad in this case, will be expedited. “If this does not happen, then business-friendly States like Gujarat could emerge as viable alternatives,” said the source. Gujarat is already home to the gigantic Reliance Industries refinery as well as Essar Oil, which was recently sold to Rosneft of Russia. IndianOil also has its Koyali refinery in the State.
The Gujarat government will clearly be delighted to add another big name to its energy portfolio. The State is also known for speedy approvals, as was evident in the case of the Tata Nano project which was relocated in record time to Sanand from Singur (West Bengal) a decade ago.
The Maharashtra government will, however, pull out all the stops to ensure that it does not face such an eventuality. Yet, it will also be aware that the stakeholders of RRPCL are unlikely to wait beyond August. With Gujarat now emerging a strong rival, it will have to really step on the gas if it does not want to lose this project.