France exploits strategic fuel reserves as refinery strike continues

PARIS, Oct 5 (Reuters) – France has been drawing on its strategic fuel reserves to restock service stations that have dried up, the government said on Wednesday, amid strikes by refinery and depot workers that have slowed the production and blocked deliveries.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran acknowledged “tensions” but said there was no shortage of fuel stocks nationwide. He urged consumers not to panic buying gasoline.

“We are obviously monitoring the situation very, very closely with the operators and, here and there, when necessary, we have used our strategic stocks to enable the supply of stations,” Veran told reporters.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to

A walkout by far-left CGT union members at TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) has disrupted operations at two refineries and two storage facilities, while two Exxon Mobil refineries have faced similar issues since September 20. .

Union action has left more than 60% of French refining capacity offline. Read more

Veran said about one in 10 gas stations nationwide were experiencing shortages, but in the north the figure was closer to one in three.


In the hardest-hit region of Hauts-de-France, near the border with Belgium, where prices at the pump are currently higher, authorities have banned the sale of gasoline and diesel in jerry cans and other portable containers.

The prefect of the Nord department around the city of Lille said he had asked certain service stations on Wednesday evening to ensure that medical aid was a priority.

The local authority also confirmed that strategic reserves were used on Wednesday to deal with the shortage, which mainly affects diesel supply.

Oil industry body UFIP said shortages at fuel pumps were due to logistics, not insufficient supplies.

“There is no supply shortage due to the strikes,” a UFIP spokesperson said.

The CGT union is calling for a 10% wage increase at TotalEnergies to catch up with soaring inflation, a massive investment plan and the hiring of temporary workers, said union delegate Thierry Defresne.

Management has so far refused a catch-up pay rise for 2022 and only wants to negotiate salaries for 2023, he added.

UFIP has previously said France has enough strategic reserves of petroleum products to cover average demand for about three months. TotalEnergies said it has increased its imports and has additional stocks “which could last between 20 days and a month”.

Outages in the refining sector in France are creating uncertainty in the refined oil trade amid a heavy oil refinery maintenance season in Europe this fall.

“The strikes continue unabated,” the union said in a statement late Wednesday, adding that “wage negotiations are far from over.”

Join now for FREE unlimited access to

Reporting by Forrest Crellin in Paris Additional reporting by Pascal Rossignol and Gus Trompiz Editing by Mark Potter, David Evans, Matthew Lewis and Gareth Jones

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.