October 15, 2010 / 8:35 AM / 9 years ago

RPT-UPDATE 3-Strike shuts Paris pipeline, police unblock depots

* Fuel pipeline to part of Paris shuts on refinery strike

* All French refineries on strike, 10 shutting down - unions

* Police end blockades at three fuel depots

* Lavera refinery declares force majeure

(Adds force majeure, market reaction, new quote, detail, repeats to change headline tag to UPDATE 3)

By Mathilde Cru and Gus Trompiz

PARIS, Oct 15 (Reuters) - French workers striking over pension reforms shut a fuel pipeline to Paris and its airports on Friday and blockaded all the country’s refineries, causing some to start halting operations and declare force majeure.

French police moved to lift blockades by the strikers at three fuel depots and Paris airport operator ADP (ADP.PA) said it had good fuel stocks, but concerns over shortages were high after panic buying of fuel by motorists this week.

Nationwide strikes over the pension changes spread across the refining sector during the week, adding to the impact of a two-week-old strike at France’s largest oil port, Fos-Lavera, over working conditions and a ports reform.

Refinery and port strikers showed no sign of giving ground, with the prospect of the stoppages continuing at least until a new day of nationwide protests called by unions for Oct. 19.

“Tuesday has become the new objective, there is no reason to go back to work now,” a CGT union official at Total (TOTF.PA) told Reuters.

A call by the CGT for truck drivers to join protests, including blockades at fuel depots, threatened more disruption.

However, the lifting of blockades at the three depots brought some relief to logistical headaches in the fuel sector.

“The unblocking of certain depots will offer some breathing space,” said a spokeswoman for oil major Total (TOTF.PA), which is France’s largest petrol station operator with 4,000 outlets. “The problem is more one of logistics than of availability — there is fuel out there.”

SHORTAGES

Total was experiencing some shortages at 200 petrol stations on Friday, she said, compared with some 40 on Wednesday. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ For a story on France's wider strike wave [ID:nLDE69E1AN] FACTBOX-Strike impact on French refineries [ID:nLDE69A1Y7] Q&A on markets impact: [ID:nLDE6941ZA] Graphic on refineries supplied from Fos-Lavera: r.reuters.com/zar46p <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

The government has called on the public to stay calm, saying it would make commercial stocks available for trucks but that it did not plan to use French strategic reserves.

With a limited but growing number of France’s 12,500 petrol stations reporting brief fuel shortages this week, distributors said this was mainly due to rush buying by motorists rather than a lack of supply.

Truck drivers told Reuters Television that petrol stations at France’s main fresh-food wholesale market at Rungis, south of Paris, were limiting purchases to 100 euros ($141) per vehicle.

Union officials said police intervention would not change the situation at refineries.

“What could the police do? They would have to be able to operate the installations,” said Michel Lavastrou, CGT union official at the Feyzin refinery.

Refinery strikes began on Tuesday and have blocked supplies from plants. All 12 French plants were on strike on Friday, with 10 in the process of shutting down, union officials said.

British chemical firm Ineos declared force majeure on one product from its refinery near Fos-Lavera, the first such action since the strikes began 19 days ago [ID:nLDE69E1LJ]

Workers were striking mostly over an unpopular pension reform that is before parliament, although a strike at the Reichstett plant in eastern France was over jobs, unions said.

Production at some refineries has also been slashed by the 19-day-old strike at Fos-Lavera, which supplies six French refineries with crude oil.

Operating company Trapil confirmed that a pipeline that brings car, jet and domestic fuel to part of the Paris region had stopped operating because of strikes at northern refineries.

But airport operator ADP said it had several days of fuel reserves. [ID:nWEA2545] [ID:nLDE69E121]

Police restored access to a major oil depot near Marseille after workers blocked it on Thursday, and the authorities also removed blockades at a depot near the south-western city of Bordeaux and at a third site near Clermont-Ferrand.

Diesel and gas oil stocks held in floating storage in the English Channel between the UK and France fell by 2.7 million barrels from 14.1 million over the past month, data showed as traders said products had been offloaded in France. [ID:nLDE69E13B]

Trader Mercuria fixed two tankers with Asian gas oil to Europe, traders said [ID:nSGE69D0F8] while European gasoline traded close to five month highs [ID:nLDE69E161]. (Additional reporting by Valerie Parent, Sybille de La Hamaide and Helen Massy-Beresford; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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