Europe’s ongoing energy crisis has been exacerbated by worker strikes at French refineries that have left gas stations in parts of the country struggling to get fuel, Reuters reported Friday.
Workers of the CRT trade union have walked out over pay and other issues, disrupting operations at two refineries and two storage facilities of the French petroleum firm TotalEnergies, according to the report.
Two ExxonMobil refineries in the country have faced similar issues.
Between the strike and unplanned maintenance, more than 60 percent of France’s refining capacity has been halted, Reuters reported Tuesday. With a loss of about 740,000 barrels per day, the country has been compelled to import fuel.
Fact Global Energy said the French strikes “come at exactly the wrong time for Europe’s energy security, as they risk accelerating product stockdraws ahead of the looming embargo on imports of Russian products,” Fortune reported Wednesday.
French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said about one in five gas stations in the country wasn’t getting the supplies it needed, Reuters reported.
She said there were “significant supply tensions” along the border with Belgium and in certain other regions.
Pannier-Runacher said the government was set to draw from the nation’s strategic reserves this weekend.
Europe saw fuel prices jump when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier in the year. That was followed by the European Union’s decision to partially ban Russian oil, the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported.
But as winter approaches with tougher sanctions on Russian oil looming, any reduction in France’s production capacity could pose a serious problem.
The nation’s strategic reserves would not last long, according to Reuters.
The French Association of Petroleum Industry estimates those reserves could stretch to cover average demand for 90 days or so.
In addition to the national reserves, TotalEnergies said it had increased its own stocks via imports and had a supply “that could last between 20 days and a month,” Reuters reported.
Europe as a whole is trying to find a way to replace the 600,000 barrels per day that were coming from Russia before the war and the partial oil embargo.
Middle Eastern oil might start making its way into Europe to replace the Russian supply, Pamela Munger, a senior market analyst from the energy analytics firm Vortexa, told Reuters.
However, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided on Wednesday to cut back on production, putting further pressure on prices.
OPEC+ announced it would cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day starting in November.
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