French strikes double refining outages -survey

* Oct routine maintenance shutdown about 1.13 million bpd

* French strike takes further 1.5 million bpd offline

* Maintenance shutdown to ease in November

By Ikuko Kurahone

LONDON, Oct 20 (BestGrowthStock) – Nearly 16 percent of Europe’s oil
refining capacity has been shut this week, double the level
planned for maintenance as French strikes led to additional
closures, a Reuters survey showed on Wednesday.

The shutdowns for planned refinery maintenance and announced
run cuts across Europe in October are expected to total an
average of 1.13 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude
distillation capacity, which is about 7.0 percent of the
region’s total of 16 million bpd and lower than about 8.8
percent in September.

But the unscheduled outages resulting from strikes at
refineries in France and the 24-day industrial actions at the
Fos-Lavera oil hub are estimated at around 1.5 million bpd as of
Wednesday, bringing the offline percentage to about 15.5-15.8
percent of Europe’s total capacity.

“We do not know how long it will last, and that is a part of
the frustration,” said an official with an oil company, whose
refinery in France has been shut by nationwide strikes against
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s unpopular planned pension reform.

France’s oil refining industry, with Europe’s third-largest
1.9 million bpd capacity, is virtually at a standstill.

As of Oct. 20, all 12 French refineries were on strike. Nine
of the refineries had stopped production, two were in the
process of shutting down and one was operating at a minimum
level, the CGT and CFDT unions said.

Two refineries outside France that are supplied from
Fos-Lavera, Petroplus’s (PPHN.VX: ) Cressier in Switzerland and
Miro’s Karlsruhe in Germany, have been forced to reduce runs.
But the companies have not specified the run rates.

The figures for planned maintenance includes crude
distillation units, the primary system at any refinery, and do
not reflect any impact from secondary-unit shutdowns, such as
catalytic crackers, unless specified by the company.

The figure also includes idled capacity, such as Total’s
Dunkirk refinery (TOTF.PA: ), which has been shut since last year
but is also a part of the nationwide strike.

The planned maintenance and run cuts are set to ease to
about 690,000 bpd in November, or about 4.3 percent of total
capacity.
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ For refinery outage table, click [REF/E] For Take a Look on protests, click [ID:nLDE69H1EP]

Map of protests in Europe http://link.reuters.com/kez28p

Oil distribution graphic http://link.reuters.com/teh78p
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

Outages at oil refineries are generally bullish for refined
oil products and bearish for crude oil.

Benchmark Eurobob gasoline prices gained an unseasonal lift
to 5-1/2-month highs earlier in October.

With no signs of the end to the strike, some physical crude
oil grades, on the other hand, have started feeling the pinch.
North Sea benchmark Forties crude traded at its lowest
differential level in almost five months on Wednesday.
[ID:nLDE69J20Q]

“With the strike both longer and more serious than initially
anticipated, some prompt crude markets are coming under
pressure,” JBC Energy said in its research note.

It said France obtains a third, or around 445,000 bpd, of
its crude imports from the former Soviet Union and that the
impact of the loss of French demand for Russian Urals and
Caspian CPC Blend could be significant.
(Reporting by Ikuko Kurahone, editing by Jane Baird)

French strikes double refining outages -survey