French Oil Refineries in First Stages of Starting Operations as Ports Open
Oil refineries in France are starting to resume operations following the end of nationwide strikes and protests at terminals.
Protests at Total SA’s Gonfreville refinery have ended and “deliveries should resume shortly,” Michael Crochet-Vourey, a company spokesman, said today in a phone message. Exxon Mobil Corp. said it’s started pumping crude from Le Havre port, in northwest France, to its Gravenchon refinery and it will take several days to return to normal production, Catherine Brun, a company spokeswoman, said by phone from Paris.
Strikes at the main port of Marseille in the south of France ended after 33 days and vessels will begin discharging tonight, the port authority said in an e-mailed statement. The protest at the Fos and Lavera oil terminals at Marseille stranded 38 crude carriers and 20 product tankers.
Protests broke out at France’s ports on Sept. 27 before escalating over President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pension reform. The strikes caused France, the second-biggest refining center in Europe after Germany, to halt production from at least nine of 11 active facilities in the country and one in Switzerland.
“At Gonfreville, we are also at the very early stages of restarting refining operations,” Crochet-Vourey said. The refinery can process 345,000 barrels of oil a day and is France’s biggest, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
France’s port of Le Havre ended strikes at 6 a.m. local time today, a spokeswoman said by phone, declining to be identified citing company policy.
LyondellBasell Industries NV said it’s making plans for the start of the Berre refinery in the south of France after the Marseille port opened. “The timing of the restart will depend on the schedule of the unloading of the ships,” David Harpole, a company spokesman, said by phone from Houston.
Fuel deliveries from Dunkirk have also resumed, Total’s Crochet-Vourey said. The Dunkirk plant was idled last year amid declining demand for fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Strikes at the refiner’s Donges, Grandpuits and Feyzin plants were due to finish at midday, he said.
“We are resuming operations progressively,” Exxon’s Brun said. Rain is hampering the start of the site’s primary crude distillation unit, she said.
France’s 11 active refineries can process 1.84 million barrels of oil a day, according to Bloomberg data. Oil companies began to halt production as early as Oct. 10 because of the strike actions.
“The refineries in France are gradually starting to come back,” Olivier Jakob, managing director at Petromatrix GmbH, a consultant based in Switzerland, said today in a note. “We would expect the situation to improve next week if not over the weekend.”
Workers at Petroplus Holdings AG’s Petit Couronne site returned to posts and fuel deliveries resumed, a CFDT union representative said yesterday. Petroplus, Europe’s largest independent refiner, was forced to start closing its Cressier refinery in Switzerland because of a lack of crude, the company said on Oct. 26. The plant relies on oil from France’s Marseille port via a pipeline.
Waiting for Crude
Ineos AG started to reduce production to “stand-by” mode at its Lavera refinery and petrochemical site in the south of France because of limited raw materials, the company said on Oct. 25. “We’re keeping the assets warm and when we get the crude, we’ll ramp up production,” Richard Longden, a U.K.-based Ineos spokesman, said two days ago.
The following table shows the status of French refineries, ranked by processing capacity in barrels a day. The Cressier plant in Switzerland is the only one outside France affected by the strikes as it gets crude supplies via pipeline from the southern port of Marseille.
Company Location Capacity Status Total Gonfreville 345,000 In “very early stages” of starting, company said today. Exxon Mobil Gravenchon 233,000 Progressive resumption of operations, company said today. Crude is being pumped from Le Havre port. Will take several days to return to normal production. Total Donges 230,000 Halted. Strike ends at midday, company said today. Ineos Lavera 218,000 Units are in “stand- by” mode amid limited crude oil supplies from port in south of France. Total La Mede 157,000 First stages of starting after strike ended, company said on Oct. 27. Petroplus Petit 142,000 Started to shut on Couronne Oct. 14. Workers voted to end strike on Oct. 27. Exxon Mobil Fos 119,000 Runs at minimum on limited crude supplies. Total Feyzin 115,000 Halted. Strike to end at midday, company said today. LyondellBasell Berre 105,000 Halted since Oct. 14 because of a lack of crude oil. Company said today it’s making plans to start the plant. Total Grandpuits 93,000 Halted. Strike to end at midday, company said today. Petroplus Reichstett 81,000 Some production halted. Workers voted on Oct. 25 to return. Petroplus Cressier 68,000 Starts shutdown on limited crude oil supplies, company said on Oct. 26.
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