By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India imported a record 4.93 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) in January to feed its expanded refining capacity and meet rising demand, ship tracking data obtained from sources and data compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research & Forecasts showed.
Imports in January were high as state-run refiners, which operate two-third of India's nearly 5 million bpd capacity, usually boost runs in the March quarter to meet government-set targets.
Due to higher imports and rising global crude prices, India's oil import bill in January surged by 42.6 percent from a year ago to $11.66 billion.
Energy Information Administration.
FGE expects India's January crude runs to reach 5.27 million bpd, about 280,000 bpd higher than a year earlier, as the country's new refining capacities are operating at almost full rate. India has not yet published refining data for January.
"The (crude) runs are high before the spring maintenance in India and elsewhere in the region. Margins are good and so is demand, why wouldn't they run?" Kumaran added.
India's refining capacity addition of 170,000 bpd at the Kochi and Bathinda plants, along with Indian Oil Corp's 300,000 bpd Paradip refinery, are operating at a full rate.
Last year Reliance Industries, operator of the world's biggest refining complex, in western India, declared 30 percent higher capacity of its export focused plant.
The country aims to lift its refining capacity by 77 pct to 8.8 million bpd by 2030, according to a government report.
India's annual fuel demand rose 10.3 percent in January, with consumption of diesel and gasoline rising in double digits.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by David Holmes)