UPDATE 5-French strikes squeeze fuel supply, govt stocks eyed

* Only 2 of 12 refineries working normally, 8 shutting down

* Handful of depots also blocked as pension strike hardens

* Fos-Lavera oil port enters 17th day of strike

* Lobby sees pump shortages next week, wants stocks decision

(Recasts from 2nd paragraph, adds UFIP, union comments,
limited pump shortages, wider strike situation)

By Mathilde Cru and Gus Trompiz

PARIS, Oct 13 (BestGrowthStock) – French workers protesting against
pension reform halted supplies from most of the country’s oil
refineries on Wednesday and were also blocking some fuel depots
as the risk grew of shortages at petrol pumps.

Only two of France’s 12 oil refineries were operating
normally, with eight in the process of shutting down, unions
said, following blockages at plants due to a 17-day-old strike
at the country’s top oil port that has cut crude supply.

Oil sector lobby UFIP said France was heading towards local
shortages by the middle of next week, raising the prospect that
the country would need to draw on strategic reserves.

“Between now and the middle of next week the government will
have to make a decision … as to whether they want to release
the strategic stocks to face the crisis,” Jean-Louis Schilansky,
head of UFIP, told Reuters Television.

A spokesman for Total (TOTF.PA: ) said the oil major had
experienced brief shortages at 40 petrol stations on Wednesday,
out of a network of about 4,600 outlets, while along the south
coast of France, where the Fos-Lavera terminals are located,
there had already been limited pump shortages because of
consumers rushing to buy, the local prefecture said.

Refinery workers had downed tools on Tuesday as part of
nationwide protests over a pension reform that is going through
parliament, while strikers at the Fos-Lavera oil port are
contesting both port and pension reforms.

“Neither the trade unions nor the employees want to shut the
country down – we will be the first to suffer the consequences,”
Frank Manchon, a CGT union official at Total’s Grandpuits
refinery, told Reuters Television.

“But that is what is going to happen because of the various
managements and especially because of the government, which is
in a state of unbelievable autism.”

Workers at Total’s Donges refinery voted to stay on strike
until Monday, the CGT union said. Other refineries are due to
vote in the coming hours on whether to extend action.

Unions said a handful of local fuel depots were also blocked
due to the strike, raising the risk of shortages occurring much
more quickly if the such actions spread across the country.

However, none of Total’s 31 French depots were on strike,
the spokesman said.

In other sectors, rail workers voted to extend a rolling
strike but participation in stoppages was down compared to
Tuesday, suggesting a possible loss of momentum. [ID:nLDE69C247]

For a story on France’s wider strike wave [ID:nLDE69B0SP]

FACTBOX-Strike impact on French refineries [ID:nLDE69A1Y7]

Q&A on markets impact: [ID:nLDE6941ZA]

Graphic on refineries supplied from Fos-Lavera:

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The International Energy Agency said in its monthly report
on Wednesday that France appeared to be already using emergency
crude stocks in the worst affected regions and replenishing them
with commercial reserves held elsewhere in the country.

It said it expected more products to start flowing to France
from abroad after a fleet of diesel cargoes was sent to Europe
from the United States and Asia last week.

The IEA also said European refinery utilisation was only at
82 percent right now, which meant supplies could be increased
elsewhere within the region to deal with a disruption.

“The problem, rather, is a logistical one involving the
movement of crude and products within France,” the IEA said.

However, shipbrokers told Reuters on Wednesday that at least
three tankers shipping Northeast Asian gas oil to Europe were
cancelled as the arbitrage was shut. [ID:nSGE69C0F7]

ICE gas oil prices (LGOc1: ) for November rose by nearly 1
percent by 1050 GMT but stayed off their previous peaks this
week, reversing their previous backwardation to contango in a
sign market worries over products shortages might be easing.

European gasoline prices stood near five-month highs at
around $765-$769 per tonne.
(Additional reporting by Jean-Francois Rosnoblet; writing by
Ikuko Kurahone and Dmitry Zhdannikov; editing by James Jukwey)

UPDATE 5-French strikes squeeze fuel supply, govt stocks eyed