22 October 2010 12:13 [Source: ICIS news]
By Franco Capaldo
LONDON (ICIS)--French authorities forced demonstrators to clear the blockade at Total’s Grandpuits refinery on Friday and ordered striking workers back to work as nationwide industrial action over pension reforms continued to cripple fuel supplies, reports said.
Total’s Grandpuits 100,000 bbl/day refinery, the closest source of gasoline supplies to Paris, has been shut in protest over president Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to increase France's retirement age from 60 to 62 and full pension entitlement from 65 to 67.
Workers at Grandpuits said they would challenge the order in court as unions called for further protests next week, media reports said. Two more protests have already been planned for 28 October and 2 November and sources said the earliest possible date for normal production to resume would not be before 6 November.
Total would not comment on the situation.
The industrial action, along with an unrelated strike at Marseille’s Fos-Lavera oil port, has forced all the country’s refineries to either operate at minimum levels or shut production altogether, causing massive supply disruptions and panic-buying at gasoline stations across France. As of Friday, about 20% of ?xml:namespace>
Despite the demonstrations, Sarkozy has been determined to press on with the pension reforms and the French Senate was due to vote later on Friday. The bill has already been passed by the National Assembly.
Refineries including ExxonMobil's merged Port Jerome-Gravenchon plant, LyondellBasell’s refinery at Berre L'Etang, INEOS’s Lavera plant, Petroplus’s refineries at Petit Couronne and Reichstett, and Total’s plants at Donges, La Mede, Gonfreville and Feyzin, were all forced to begin production shutdowns last week due to crude supply issues and strike action taken by workers, which prevented the plants from operating within required safety standards.
Product dispatch from ExxonMobil's refinery at Fos-sur-Mer continued to be blocked, although the facility was still running at minimum throughput levels.
The French Chemical Industry Union said in a statement it was losing €100m euros ($138m) a day because of the strikes.
The shutdowns have seriously affected downstream users, with a variety of chemical producers suffering from a lack of refined feedstock. Some producers have begun to cut chemical production or declared force majeure (FM) on products as availability diminishes.
Olefins players in Europe have been concerned that ethylene (C2) and propylene (C3) supplies were approaching a critical point as the continuing strikes in
There were reports from olefin sources that only the two steam crackers at Carling and Berre out of seven in France were now running: The remaining crackers either have no naphtha or were on strike, sources said.
On Thursday, SolVin, a joint venture between BASF and Solvay, declared FM on polyvinyl chloride (PVC) production from its 300,000 tonnes/year site in
Earlier in the week INEOS Oxide declared FM on ethylene oxide (EO), ethylene glycols, glycol ethers (and their esters), ethanolamines, oxo-alcohols and butyl acetates originating from its Lavera site in
Meanwhile, Arkema also declared FM on supplies of oxo-alcohols from its Lavera plant and also held FM on PVC from all four of its French sites due to restricted feedstock supply as it was unable to move PVC feedstock vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) between its facilities.
In addition, the demonstrations have also contributed to a further tightening in
The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced the strike action could result in a shortage of European gasoil supplies and higher spot prices, while on Monday, market sources said that prices of jet fuel in
In related news, Petroplus announced on Thursday that it would convert its 85,000 bbl/day Reichstett refinery in
The group said it had considered several options including a potential sale, further investments to improve its competitiveness as well as a shutdown of the refining operations, before it finally decided on the conversion to a terminal following a strategic review.
Additional reporting by Nel Weddle, Stephanie Wilson, Libby George, Sian Jones, Sarah Trinder, Heidi Finch and Giovanni Coiro
($1 = €0.72)
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