Bitumen demand in January-November totalled 7.14mn t, up from 6.98mn t in 2020 and 6.8mn t in 2019. Consumption rose despite recent Covid lockdowns and delays from monsoons in infrastructure and road construction.

India had announced a strong push for infrastructure development in its 2021 fiscal year budget, allocating around 4pc of the budget to this sector. The country has plans to near completion its target of building 34,800km of roads and highways by 2022, under its Bharatmala Pariyojna plan.

“Out of 34,800km approved under Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I, projects comprising length of 19,265km have been awarded, out of this a length of 6,567km has been completed,” transport minister Nitin Gadkari said earlier this month in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the parliament of India. “Detailed project reports for the remaining length have been initiated with award of these projects targeted by year 2023 and completion by 2025-26,” he added.

Indian refineries ran at higher capacities in November in anticipation of the seasonal high demand that was expected from November to May.

Overall consumption of gasoline in November and December so far has held above pre-pandemic levels as the use of private vehicles has risen during the pandemic.

State-controlled MRPL’s 300,000 b/d refinery in Mangalore, BPCL’s 310,000 b/d plant in Kochi and 240,000 b/d refinery in Mumbai, and HPCL’s 166,000 b/d Visakhapatnam (Vizag) refinery operated above their maximum capacity in November.

Despite higher consumption for most of the year, bitumen demand has struggled to keep pace in December. Issues with the disbursement of project payments by the government have forced many road contractors to hold off roadworks, resulting in a slowdown in short-to-medium term demand.

Inventories of imports from the Middle East have risen across western Indian ports in recent weeks, while Indian refiners are starting to see a build-up of stocks.