Fuel Shortages Hit France

Fuel Shortages Hit FranceFuel Shortages Hit France

Hundreds of gasoline stations faced shortages in France over the weekend as protests over a labor law reform led to a fall in refinery output and blockades that hampered fuel supply and prompted consumer panic.

Oil workers at Total voted on Friday to shut down output at three refineries, in Donges, Feyzin and Normandy and by Tuesday all three would be totally halted.

The process had already started with French oil industry group UFIP, saying Total had shut units at all three refineries.

Deliveries from Total's Grandpuits refinery were blocked by protesters, prompting output to run at reduced flow. The fifth one in La Mede was reportedly operating normally. In addition, three of Total's nine oil depots were blocked, UFIP said.

The news of fuel shortages and blockades sent drivers rushing to gasoline stations to fill their tanks as a precaution.

One woman outside a gasoline station in Saint Nazaire said on Saturday, "I arrived at 8:10 a.m. and I’ve been waiting for half an hour for 20 liters. We don’t have the right to get anymore.”

Another man waiting in the line said: “To wait half an hour is not too long … sooner or later there won’t be any more fuel left.”

UFIP said 317 out of Total's 2,200 gasoline stations in France had run out of all or some fuels on Saturday. Total runs nearly one gasoline station out of five in the country. Shell and Eni gasoline stations were not facing any disruption, UFIP said.

Several departments in the northwest imposed restrictions on limiting the volume of fuel per vehicle or banning jerry cans.

A prolonged strike at refineries in France in 2010 led to a glut of crude in Europe because it could not be delivered to refineries and thousands of gasoline stations ran out of fuel.