India’s planned west coast mega refinery, which has been delayed and marred by controversies, may finally see the light of day as the Maharashtra government has started acquiring land in Barsu village in Ratnagiri district for the project.
Uday Samant, minister for industries, the government of Maharashtra, told reporters on Nov 22 that the government has support, especially from Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray member of the legislative assembly from the region Rajan Salvi, for the project. Samant said that they have managed to acquire 2,900 acres of the total 6,200 acres required for the mega refinery-cum-petrochemicals complex project which was first announced in 2015.
India had planned to set up a $50 billion mega refinery on the west coast but the project didn't take off despite backing from state-run oil companies and investment commitment from the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The project has been stalled since 2018 due to disputes over land acquisition.
Samant said, speaking in Marathi, “We will go ahead with the refinery without putting pressure on anyone and after taking farmers into confidence.”
The central government has been keen on reviving the plan to set up a mega refinery on the coast of Maharashtra with a capacity of 60 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).Earlier in September, Hardeep Singh Puri, minister of petroleum and natural gas, and housing and urban affairs, had said that the government had “reasonable confidence” that the project will now take off given the support shown by the state government.
Story so far
The mega refinery-cum-petrochemicals complex was slated to be the biggest in Asia. State-run-refining and marketing companies– Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL)– came together to form a new entity to set up the project, namely Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd.
In 2018, Saudi Aramco and the ADNOC signed a framework agreement to jointly develop the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited project. The two energy majors from the Middle East were to hold a 50 percent stake in the project, while IOCL would own a 25 percent stake and the remaining 25 percent would be divided equally between BPCL and HPCL.
The project faced challenges, first with land acquisition and then with local citizens who protested against it due to concerns over its impact on the environment. In 2019, Shiv Sena, which was against the project, pushed its alliance partner in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to shelve the project.Since then, the political alliance broke and the state has seen two governments– Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government and now the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led BJP-Shiv Sena government.