BPCL Privatisation: Uncertainty looms over key projects at Kochi Refinery

Privatisation of BPCL: Uncertainty looms over the key projects at Kochi Refinery

Kochi: The Centre's decision to completely sell off the Kochi Refinery as part of the privatisation of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) means that one of the biggest refineries in the country would no longer be in the public sector.

The most advanced refinery in the country would move into private hands, leaving a question mark over several multi-crore projects and the job security of thousands of workers.

According to reports, several global oil companies such as Saudi-based Aramco have shown interest in the refinery.

The fate of the multi-crore projects

• The decision to sell comes even as the largest investment is being made at the refinery in Kerala's industrial history. Rs 33,050 crore is being spent over the last few years. The Integrated Refinery Expansion Project (IREP) was implemented at the Kochi Refinery only in January at a cost of Rs 16,504 crore. The BPCL authorities have said that they would continue with the development projects irrespective of the nature of sale.

• As part of the Rs 16,546-crore petrochemical complex, the Rs 11,300-crore polyol project would be completed by the end of 2023. The Rs 5246-crore propylene derivative petrochemical project would be commissioned soon. Authorities planned to use the residual materials from this project for starting the petrochemical park by the KINFRA, the future of which is now uncertain.

• With the completion of the IREP project, the refinery’s capacity to purify the crude oil has increased from 9.5 million tonne to 15.5 million tonne. The refinery would also be able to produce BS-6 standard environment-friendly petrol, and diesel.

Will their jobs be secure?

• The sale also puts the future of 2,500 permanent workers, 6,000 contract workers and hundreds of temporary workers in various projects under a cloud. Job security could be affected when the ownership moves into private hands.

It is also feared that that the workers would lose the jobs. If big, foreign multi-national companies are buying the refinery, the policies could undergo key changes.

Kochi Refinery is in the forefront of job providers in Kerala's public sector. With the privatisation, the new recruitments could be cut down drastically.