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French Refinery Workers Protest Against Petit-Couronne Halt

French refinery employees stopped work to protest the shutdown of Petroplus Holdings AG’s Petit-Couronne site in Normandy, as a regional court agreed to defer a meeting on the plant’s future to tomorrow.

The call to strike wasn’t followed at all refineries, Christian Votte, a spokesman for the Confederation Generale du Travail union, said today by phone. Total SA workers took part in Donges and Provence, as well as at a Normandy plant that’s shut for maintenance until the end of the month, he said.

A court in Rouen, which had been due to convene today, will meet tomorrow to study expressions of interest in the 154,000-barrel-a-day Petit-Couronne site, Petroplus said in a statement. It may announce a new date for a decision on the plant’s future or extend the bid deadline, the company said. Offers from Netoil Inc. and Alafandi Petroleum Group were rejected last month.

The facility went into administration after Petroplus filed for insolvency in January, becoming the fourth French plant to be suspended in two years as European refining profits dwindled. Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg petitioned the court to delay a ruling as he sought time to examine Libyan interest, saying on RTL radio that he’d been contacted by the nation’s sovereign wealth fund.

The plant has been operating since June under a so-called tolling deal with Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and may shut this month if a credible buyer or plan isn’t approved by the court, according to the CGT.

Victoria Chanial, a spokeswoman for Paris-based Total, said participation in today’s strike was “relatively weak.” She declined to comment on any impact on production.

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s two French refineries aren’t affected, according to spokeswoman Catherine Brun.

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