Refineries and fuel shortages: five questions about the aftermath of the crisis


Posted Oct 17, 2022, 6:38 PMUpdated on Oct 17, 2022 at 6:46 PM

1 Where is the conflict?

The strike was lifted at Esso-ExxonMobil refineries and depots. It continues, however, on five TotalEnergies sites: the refineries and depots of Gonfreville-l’Orcher, Donges, La Mède and Feyzin, as well as the Dunkirk depot. These sites remain blocked because the strikers, a minority (they would be around 150), occupy strategic positions, without which the refineries and depots cannot operate.

Despite the signing of a majority agreement between the management, the CFDT and CFE-CGC, the CGT wants new negotiations and denounces measures far from satisfying it. The management proposal would, according to her, be above real inflation because it includes seniority bonuses and individual bonuses.

The test could be this day of Tuesday: in the event of strong mobilization at the national level, the CGT could further harden its movement. In particular, it can choose to disrupt requisitions and extend its action to more depots (there are 200 throughout France). If the mobilization is not there, the movement could run out of steam.

2 Are requisitions effective?

After initial requisitions on the depots last week, two new operations were carried out on Monday: one on the Flanders depot in Dunkirk, the other on that of Feyzin in the Rhône. Six people were mobilized on the first, seven on the second.

The Dunkirk depot notably supplies the Paris region, which continued this weekend to be the most affected with 41.6% of service stations disrupted on Sunday. The requisition of the Feyzin depot was to relieve the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté regions, where the situation had deteriorated sharply in recent hours.

Requisitions from depots are ad hoc, orders are generally taken over a few hours, the time to allow the loading and distribution of fuel to the network. This remains a cumbersome process: on a given site, a new prefectural decree is required for each service (there are three per day) and the threat to public order must be demonstrated.

But it remains very effective: last week, each employee requisitioned on the Esso site in Port-Jérôme generated nearly 100,000 full tanks. And if the effect of requisitions is not always visible, it is also because many consumers rushed to the points of sale without really needing to, thus drying up the influx of new products.

3 When can the situation return to normal?

The government has been promising improvements for more than a week now, without this actually materializing. The restart of the Esso-ExxonMobil sites, which began at the end of last week, should nevertheless relieve distribution in the coming days.

“These restarts, the effect of imports, the release of strategic stocks will bring additional volumes, assures Olivier Gantois, president of Ufip Energies and Mobilities. But once the strikes are over, it will take at least a week for a full return to normal. ” Esso management has warned that ” the return to a normal operating situation should take two to three weeks during which the production of the two sites will not have returned to their optimal level. »

4 What impact for oil companies?

“Too early” to determine the real cost of the movement according to TotalEnergies and Esso. However, this could be limited. Importing costs a little more than producing in French refineries, but oil companies import more than half of the diesel in France anyway. With the rise in prices, part of this inflation should therefore be borne by the end consumer.

For TotalEnergies, this crisis nevertheless has a consequence: the extension of the rebate of 20 cents until mid-November, under pressure from the government. A measure whose cost should exceed 500 million euros this year.

5 Why are gas prices soaring again?

In the space of two weeks, the price of 95 unleaded petrol has increased by 16 cents, and that of diesel by 23 cents. The main reason for this surge is the rise in prices in Rotterdam, the market on which French oil companies get their supplies of processed products. Last week, diesel prices in Rotterdam rose by 10 cents. By applying the VAT, we find the entire increase in diesel prices over the week (+12 cents).

European demand has jumped in recent weeks: to compensate for the fall in production at refineries and maintain their stocks, TotalEnergies and Esso-ExxonMobil have largely imported (up to 50% more for diesel), Germany has also began to import more diesel, which it substitutes for gas in certain industries. Other factors: Crude prices rose slightly after OPEC+’s decision to cut production quotas and the euro depreciated against the dollar.

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