Total to Restart Southern France La Mede Refinery After Strikes

Total SA, Europe’s biggest refiner, is taking preliminary steps to restart its La Mede plant in southern France, which was halted in June by a strike.

“The installations will gradually move towards normal activity during the month of August,” a company spokesman said by telephone Wednesday.

La Mede was idled June 11 due to a strike by workers led by the CGT union to protest the company’s plan to stop processing crude at the refinery. Total plans to convert the unprofitable plant near Marseille to process biofuels, part of a plan that will also reconfigure its Donges refinery on the Atlantic coast. The projects are aimed at lowering European refining capacity and making it more profitable.

Total reported second-quarter profit July 29 that almost matched year-earlier results as higher margins at its refining business helped offset a 50 percent slump in crude prices. Chief Financial Officer Patrick de La Chevardiere said the company’s average European refining margin was above $50 a ton in July.

Under its plans for French refining unveiled in April, Total will invest 200 million euros ($217 million) at La Mede for a biorefinery that will process 500,000 metric tons of fuel annually. Processing of crude oil will stop at the end of next year and the company will cut 180 jobs at the site without firing any workers, it said.