BP, HPCL JV for Bhatinda refinery

New Delhi: In what marks a significant development for the petroleum sector, UK oil major BP Plc on Thursday signed a 50-50 joint venture agreement with Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) to examine opportunities in refining and marketing of petroleum products.

The JV will invest in HPCL's 9 million tonne per annum Bhatinda refinery in Punjab, due to go onstream in 2009, although BP's stake in the Rs12,000-crore project is yet to be decided after negotiations between the two players.

''India is one of the fastest-growing energy markets in the world and we have been evaluating a range of potential areas where BP might become involved,'' said Lord John Browne, group CEO at BP. ''There is no decision on a stake in Bhatinda, but it will be a significant one.'' The venture would also develop joint marketing activity, including the establishment of a retail service station network, in preparation for the refinery coming on stream.

Browne said the company was looking at ''long, broad and deep'' association with India and said that it would like to use the HPCL brand name to enter into fuel retailing.