France taps domestic stocks and ups imports as strikes continue

6 Oct 2022

Quantum Commodity Intelligence - France has turned to strategic reserves and higher imports to help alleviate fuel shortages as industrial action disrupts supply at several domestic refineries.

Strategic stocks and higher imports are compensating for lower domestic output, spokesman for French oil companies said on Thursday, as strikes continue for a second week.

"Imports are arriving… We will replace the production of the refineries," Olivier Gantois said in an interview on French radio on Thursday.

Gantois confirmed the arrival of additional imports to compensate for lower domestic output, and that the situation would subsequently "get better as of today."

He also confirmed that some French regions – the Nord and Pas-de-Calais – were drawing on strategic stocks to alleviate shortages.

France's TotalEnergies has said it has enough stocks to last 20 days to a month, according to local media.

The company have been extremely active in the afternoon trading window, bidding for several spot diesel and gasoil cargoes this week in Le Havre, Rouen and Dunkirk.

It has pushed ULSD cargo prices around $140/mt higher from the start of the week, up nearly $15/b against ICE Brent. 

Strikes at Total's 240,000 bpd Gronfevrille plant and Exxon's 240,000 bpd Port Jerome and 140,000 bpd Fos-sur-Mer refinery are in their second week, with no end in sight.

Walkouts and demonstrations have targeted supplies at several other French sites. 

Discussions between unions and bosses broke down last week over union demands for a 10% pay rise and more investment in French oil assets.

The stoppages have coincided with a heavy autumn maintenance season, contributing to tight European supply. 

Oil product cracks are at multi-month highs, with diesel at $65/b above ICE Brent and gasoline at around $17/b premiums.