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Bloomberg: Total Refinery Among Six Hit by Marseille Port-Workers Strike

By Tara Patel

March 27 (Bloomberg) — A Total SA refinery is among six whose operations have been hit by a two-week strike at the port of Marseilles that threatens to create fuel shortages at service stations in France.

Total, Europe’s third-largest oil company, said it has cut output by about a third at the Feyzin refinery near Lyon because of disruption to crude-oil deliveries. As well as the six in France, refineries in Germany and Switzerland are also affected, said Jean-Francois Cousinie, a regional director of the French Union of Petroleum Industries. He didn’t name them.

“The cost of this strike to the oil industry will be considerable,” Cousinie said today at press conference in Marseilles. “Refineries can run on stocks until this weekend and then they will have to be shut down.”

Port workers in Marseille, Europe’s second-biggest oil- import hub, voted today to continue the strike, which has left 51 vessels stranded outside oil terminals. Some refineries have reduced output by as much as a third.

The reduction “was done to win some time and avoid a shutdown,” Total spokesman Burkhard Reuss said today by telephone from Paris.

Shortages at service stations in France may begin within as little as 10 days, said Cousinie. There is environmental damage because refiners are having to burn butane that can’t be exported, he added.

Maintenance work that idled Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Berre refinery in southern France is mitigating the impact of the stoppage, company spokesman Rainer Winzenried said yesterday in Brussels. Officials at Exxon Mobil Corp. in Paris couldn’t be reached for comment today.

Cost to Industry

The delays have cost the industry about 7 million euros ($9.3 billion), Cousinie said. A two-week strike at Marseilles in 2005 cost 25 million euros, including 17 million euros to refiners.

“We are at the same point now as we were at the end of that strike,” Cousinie said. “There will be damage to the image of the port. Considerable efforts were made at the end of the last strike to bring traffic back to the port and now I fear this strike will push it elsewhere.”

The 51 stranded vessels include 28 oil carriers, 17 chemical ships and six gas transporters, all of which are waiting to load and discharge at the Fos and Lavera terminals, the port said today.

The strike was started by the Confédération Générale du Travail union over the future of the workforce at a natural-gas terminal under construction at Fos by Gaz de France SA.

Operations are scheduled to begin at the gas terminal by the end of this year. Gaz de France, owner of Europe’s biggest natural-gas network, hired its own employees to operate the terminal.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at [email protected] .

Last Updated: March 27, 2007 12:25 EDT

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