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Total Halting Three French Refineries on Strike, Union Says

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Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Three French refineries of Total SA, the nation’s biggest oil company, were halting operations amid an industrial dispute that entered its fifth day, while strike action at two other sites ended, union officials said.

Employees at the Grandpuits facility today voted to allow fuel deliveries to resume from the site, which was operating at lower rates during the industrial action, Eric Sellini, a CGT union representative, said by phone from Paris. The Feyzin and Gonfreville refineries were in the process of shutting units, while operations at La Mede have stopped, Christian Votte, a second CGT official, said earlier today. Officials for Paris-based Total haven’t returned two phone calls and one e-mail seeking comment.

“If shutdowns at these French refineries do go ahead --it would take a couple more days for output to be halted completely -- it could potentially provide regional margins with a boost,” Vienna-based researcher JBC Energy GmbH said in an e-mailed report.

Total’s five refineries in France, including the Donges facility, have a capacity to process about 800,000 barrels a day of crude, or 60 percent of the nation’s output, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Demand for oil products in France averaged 1.76 million barrels a day in the third quarter, according to data from the International Energy Agency published on Dec. 11.

‘Technical Incident’

The Donges refinery, where workers voted yesterday to end strike, was operating at a very low rate because of a “technical incident,” CGT’s Votte said.

Industrial action over pay started at the refineries on Dec. 13, the day when salary negotiations began with Total, according to CGT. The CFDT and CGC-CFE unions agreed to a pay deal with the company yesterday, while CGT didn’t sign it, according to union officials. Acceptance of the accord by two unions was “sufficient for any agreement to be deemed valid,” JBC said.

Total bought three barges of diesel yesterday totaling 8,500 metric tons for delivery in the Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp oil-hub via the Platts pricing window, according to a survey of traders and brokers.

To contact the reporters on this story: Morgane Lapeyre in London at mlapeyre@bloomberg.net; Konstantin Rozhnov in London at krozhnov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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