A nationwide strike by French refinery, power and gas workers lowered crude processing rates and cut power output while the possibility of fuel shortages loomed as Marseille oil terminals remained blocked.
Workers at seven of the country’s 12 refineries voted to strike today and others may follow, CGT union representative Charles Foulard said by telephone. Deliveries to and from plants on strike will be blocked and refining rates reduced, he said.
Total SA began halting the Donges refinery, the company’s second biggest in France, according to spokesman Michael Crochet-Vourey.
The walkout is affecting refineries owned by Total, Ineos Group Holding Plc and LyondellBasell Industries NV, according to the CGT union. Electricite de France SA’s nuclear output dropped by 5,000 megawatts today, CGT union spokeswoman Marie-Claire Cailletaud said.
French workers are demonstrating for the fourth time in five weeks to oppose a plan to increase the retirement age to 62 from 60. A strike at Marseille’s oil terminals of Fos and Lavera entered its 16th day as employees demand changes to the way a 2008 ports reform law will be implemented.
Gasoline prices in the benchmark Rotterdam-Amsterdam- Antwerp barge market advanced to five-month highs. Eurobob grade traded at as much as $772 a metric ton yesterday, the highest price since April 30. Total was the main buyer of premium gasoline, which traded from $781 to $784 a ton, according to a survey of traders and brokers monitoring the Platts pricing window. That is up from $770 on Oct. 8.
Labor action is affecting all of Total’s crude-processing plants except Feyzin as well as two petrochemical sites, Foulard said.
Between half and 80 percent of shift workers at Total refineries are participating in the strike, a number that is “comparable” to recent national strikes, Crochet-Vourey said.
Total began halting the crude-distillation unit at its La Mede refinery two days ago because of a shortage of crude supplies due to the port strike while Feyzin is operating at a ”minimal rate,” the company has said.
The French refiners’ organization Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres has said fuel supply problems for consumers could start Oct. 18 because of the port strike, which has cost crude processers “tens of millions of euros.”
Total, Exxon Mobil Corp., Ineos Group Holdings Plc and LyondellBasell have plants in southeastern France that together account for 31 percent of French refining capacity.
The Marseille docks have experienced stoppages in recent years as unions have resisted efforts to transfer public-sector jobs to private companies.
A 12-day strike at the oil hub in December 2008 cost refineries 26 million euros ($36 million), including 15 million euros related to vessel delays and 11 million euros in lost revenue, UFIP estimated at the time. A strike at the oil terminals in March 2007 lasted 17 days.
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