Seven French Refineries Ready to Resume Processing; Await Oil

Seven oil refineries in France are ready to resume processing as soon as crude supplies become available from ships stranded by month-long port strikes.

“The refiners are back at work but they cannot operate because they don’t have any crude oil,” Yves le Goff, a spokesman for refiner’s group UFIP, said by phone today from Paris.

France’s 11 refineries can process 1.84 million barrels of oil a day, according to Bloomberg data. Plants such as Total SA’s La Mede facility began halting production as early as Oct. 10 amid protests that began at ports on Sept. 27, before escalating over President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pension reform.

Workers at the oil terminal of Marseille on France’s southern coast were on strike today leaving 38 crude carriers and 20 refined product vessels stranded, according to an e-mailed statement from port officials.

Total’s La Mede plant in the south is in the preliminary stages of start-up following the end of strike action, Michael Crochet-Vourey, a company spokesman, said yesterday. The company’s other facilities remain halted amid countrywide protests.

Workers at Petroplus Holdings AG’s Petit Couronne site voted yesterday to return to work and fuel deliveries have resumed, Sevillane Lambret, a CFDT union representative said today by phone. Staff at the company’s other French plant at Reichstett agreed to return to work at the beginning of the week and production remained halted because of limited oil feedstock.

Swiss Halt

Petroplus 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 via a pipeline.

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 yesterday.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said yesterday its employees wouldn’t take part in today’s nationwide protests over the government’s plan to increase the minimum age of retirement to 62 from 60. The company’s 233,000 barrel-a-day Gravenchon refinery, which depends on crude supplies from the port of Le Havre, was waiting for shipments, and its 119,000 barrel-a-day Fos facility in the south of France was running at reduced rates, said Catherine Brun, an Exxon spokeswoman. Both sites had resumed fuel deliveries.

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 Fos.

Company        Location      Capacity      Status

Total          Gonfreville   345,000       Halted because of

Exxon Mobil    Gravenchon    233,000       Most units halted
                                           amid a complete
                                           shutdown because of
                                           limited crude oil
                                           supplies from the
                                           port of Le Havre.
                                           started as workers

Total          Donges        230,000       Halted because of
                                           workers’ strike.

Ineos          Lavera        218,000       Units are in “stand-
                                           by” mode amid
                                           limited crude oil
                                           supplies from Fos.

Total          La Mede       157,000       First stages of
                                           starting after
                                           strike ended.

Petroplus      Petit         142,000       Started to shut on
               Couronne                    Oct. 14. Staff voted
                                           yesterday to end
                                           strike. Fuel-
                                           deliveries resume.

Exxon Mobil    Fos           119,000       Runs at minimum on
                                           limited crude
                                           supplies from Fos.
                                           Staff return to work.

Total          Feyzin        115,000       Halted on strike.

LyondellBasell Berre         105,000       Refining units halted
                                           because of limited
                                           crude oil supplies
                                           from Fos. Chemical
                                           plants at reduced
                                           rates. Workers aren’t
                                           on strike, company
                                           said on Oct. 25.

Total          Grandpuits     93,000       Halted because
                                           workers still on

Petroplus      Reichstett     81,000       Some production
                                           halted on strike.
                                           Workers voted on Oct.
                                           25 to return to

Petroplus      Cressier       68,000       Starts shutdown on
                                           limited crude oil
                                           supplies from the Fos
                                           port, company said on
                                           Oct. 26.
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