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27 Mar, 2023 17:01

Critical French oil refinery grinds to a halt

Operations at Gonfreville have been disrupted by protests over pension reforms, according to Reuters
Critical French oil refinery grinds to a halt

French energy giant Total has halted production at one of the country’s largest refineries as protests continue against the government’s plan to raise the retirement age, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a company spokesperson.

The reported shutdown at Gonfreville comes after staff were requisitioned at the site last week to avoid fuel and supply shortages, including at airports in Paris. The requisitions at the 240,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery have been met with protests by unions.

Gonfreville supplies the whole Ile-de-France region and provides fuel to the capital’s main airports. On Friday, state forces temporarily managed to disperse refinery workers who were holding a blockade, which helped to resume fuel shipments. However, workers have continued their picket.

Industrial action at French refineries has left some petrol stations short of fuel, as well as hitting liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, power supplies, and nuclear reactor maintenance.

Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher stated last week that some 15% of French petrol stations were experiencing disruptions.

Protests gripped France last week, with over a million people demonstrating in a nationwide movement against unpopular pension system changes proposed by President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron bypassed parliament and used executive privilege to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, insisting that the change was necessary to prevent the bankruptcy of the national pension system. The French leader has refused to budge despite trade unions and opposition parties denouncing the measures.

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