French pension strikes continue to disrupt power output, fuel supplies

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  • TotalEnergies says no fuel deliveries from its refineries
  • No deliveries from Esso’s Fos, Port Jerome back to normal
  • Power supplies reduced by 13% but no imports needed

By Forrest Crellin and America Hernandez

PARIS, March 9 (Reuters) – Workers striking over proposed changes to France’s pension system continued to block fuel deliveries and reduce electricity production at several sites on Thursday.

About 7% of French refuelling stations lacked at least one product as of Wednesday, but “there is no supply problem for service stations and the situation is improving”, said Olivier Gantois, president of the French Union for Petroleum, Energy and Mobility Industries UFIP.

TotalEnergies said there were again no fuel deliveries from its French refineries due to the strike.

There were also no deliveries from ExxonMobil unit Esso’s Fos-sur-Mer refinery in southern France, although operations had returned to normal at Port Jerome in the northwest, a union representative told Reuters.

The disruption at Fos is expected to last until 9 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Thursday as per a strike protocol agreement signed late Wednesday, a spokesperson for Esso said.

Regionally, fuel stations in Ile-de-France, where capital city Paris is located, were about 15% dry and some areas in the west of the country also had supply disruptions, UFIP said.

Riot police stand as people block the A9 motorway towards Spain during a new day of protests against the French government’s planned reform of the pension system, in Le Boulou, southern France, 09 March 2023. Workers’ Force (FO) and General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union members blocked traffic. Protests continue across the country due to the French government’s plan to delay the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030. EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

During previous pay strikes in the autumn, it took about a week of sustained action disrupting fuel refining and deliveries before major shortages were noticed. The autumn is also refinery maintenance season, which further contributed to problems.

While the price of diesel product contracts in Europe has edged up in recent days, “overall the market doesn’t seem to be reacting to the strikes in the same way it did during October 2022”, said Pamela Munger, senior market analyst at energy analytics firm Vortexa.

On the power side, supply was reduced by 8.2 gigawatts (GW), or 13% of overall production, across some of the country’s nuclear, thermal and hydropower sites due to the strike, EDF data showed.

France is not currently importing electricity, data from grid operator RTE showed, suggesting domestic supply is meeting demand.

Opinion polls show a majority of voters oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to delay the state pension age by two years to 64, but the government says the policy change is essential to ensure the system does not go bust.

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