France state

France grapples with refinery strikes, but plans no gasoline rationing

PARIS, Oct 8 (Reuters) – More than a fifth of French service stations were struggling with supply problems on Saturday, the energy ministry said, amid strikes at refineries by oil majors TotalEnergies ( TTEF.PA) and ExxonMobil (XOM.N) continue to tire drivers’ nerves.

“The government is doing everything possible to restore the situation as soon as possible,” Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said in a statement.

The ministry said 20.7 percent of gas stations were having trouble with at least one product as of 1 p.m. (1100 GMT) on Saturday, up from 19 percent the day before.

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“A solution to this conflict must be found as soon as possible,” added the minister, in remarks aimed at workers and bosses on strike, echoing remarks made on Friday by President Emmanuel Macron.

A walkout by CGT union members at TotalEnergies – mostly over pay – has disrupted operations at two refineries and two storage facilities, while two Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) refineries have faced similar issues since September 20.

Environment Minister Christophe Bechu earlier told franceinfo radio that the government would not ration petrol for drivers or restrict the use of petrol stations in response to supply problems caused by the strikes.

“We haven’t reached that point yet,” Bechu told franceinfo radio when asked if the government would impose any national measures beyond bans in some places on filling jerry cans.

“We appeal for calm and people’s sense of responsibility,” the minister said, adding that he believed the situation would improve in the coming days as the government made more use of its strategic reserves.

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In some areas, mainly the northern region of Hauts-de-France and Ile-de-France around Paris, the share of service stations affected is much higher than the national average.

An interactive map compiled by the mon-essence.fr site, where more than 100,000 users have reported outages in recent days according to its operator, showed that a large majority of petrol stations in and around Paris were marked out of service. .

“The queue will take you at least an hour and a half or two,” said mortgage broker Jean Galibert, as he entered the final stretch of a 700-meter traffic jam outside a Paris gas station. on his scooter.

“This situation right behind me reflects the state of France. We are struggling,” said Franck Chang, another customer.

The strikes have reduced total output at French refineries by more than 60%, according to Reuters calculations.

“Nothing moved, the strikes continued this morning,” said a CGT representative at TotalEnergies.

He added that the union would make a further appeal on Saturday to TotalEnergies chief executive Patrick Pouyanne to open negotiations ahead of formal pay talks in November, and that the union had not given up on any of its demands.

A CGT representative at Exxon Mobil also said strikes at two of the US company’s two French refineries continued Saturday morning and were likely to last through the weekend, with further talks with management scheduled for Monday.

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Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Caroline Pailliez; Additional reporting by Thomas Denis; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Holmes

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