Several news outlets like ANI and The Times of India recently quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying there were no oil refineries in India at a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Basti. But the PM never said that.
PM Modi’s alleged quote drew sharp responses on social media platforms and especially from members of the Opposition, like Congress spokesperson Lavanya Ballal and the party’s national social media coordinator Gaurav Pandhi.
In a tweet, ANI had quoted the PM as saying, “We do not have oil refineries, we import crude oil... They [Opposition] never paid attention to it... Now, with the help of sugarcane, ethanol can be made. Our government is establishing a network of ethanol plants: PM Modi in Basti, UP”.
The TOI’s tweet was similar.
Ballal cited ANI’s tweet and critiqued Modi, mentioning that India, in fact, had 22 oil refineries. Meanwhile, Pandhi tweeted a photo of a list of oil refineries in India (the source of the list was not disclosed by Pandhi) showing that India had 23 oil refineries.
FactChecker found that ANI and TOI had misquoted PM Modi as he spoke of oil wells and not refineries. In his speech at Basti, Modi can be heard saying (from timestamp 39.42 in the video below) that “Humare paas, tail ke kuay nahi hain… hum bohot saara kaccha tail bahar se mangate hain [We do not have oil wells. We import a lot of oil from other countries].”
In fact, Modi had said, in November 2020, that India was planning to nearly double its oil refining capacity in the next five years. “Work is on to double the oil refining capacity in the next five years,” he had said while speaking at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
23 oil refineries
Ballal’s claim that India has 22 oil refineries does not check out against official records. The Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell maintains a map of refineries in India and India’s Oil and Gas Ready Reckoner, which provides insight and updates on the oil industry in the country. These show that there are currently 23 oil refineries in India.
Indian Oil Corporation Limited has nine oil refineries, which is the highest number any oil company has in the country. Assam and Gujarat host the highest number of such refineries – four each.
Refinery vs well
An oil refinery changes crude oil into petroleum products for use as fuel for transportation, heating, paving roads, and generating electricity and as feedstocks for making chemicals, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
An oil well, on the other hand, is a hole dug into the Earth that serves the purpose of bringing oil or other hydrocarbons – such as natural gas – to the surface, according to the Energy Education team at the University of Calgary. So, crude oil is extracted from oil wells and is transported to oil refineries for further processing.
Although PM Modi was misquoted by news outlets, what he actually claimed was that India had no oil wells. But, this claim holds no truth either.
According to Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell’s December 2021 reckoner, there were 34 oil wells drilled in the country as of March 31, 2021. Most of these (30) have been drilled by the Oil and Natural Gas Company and four by Oil India Limited.
FactChecker tried contacting PM Modi’s office via call and email but had received no response at the time of publishing this article. This report will be updated as and when a response is received.
This article first appeared on FactChecker.in, a publication of the data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit IndiaSpend.