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Strikes Bring Shortages in Hundreds of French Petrol Stations

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A picture taken on April 16, 2015 shows the Total refinery of Donges, western France. French oil giant Total announced a 400 million euro investment plan to allow the Donges refinery to produce fuel conform with European standards by adding a desulfurization unit. AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBET (Photo credit should read GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)Photograph by Georges Gobet — AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of petrol stations faced shortages in France on Saturday as protests over a labor law reform led to a fall in refinery output and blockades that hampered fuel supply and prompted consumer panic.

France has been hit by a wave of strikes over the past week after President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government opted to force the unpopular labor market reforms through the lower house of parliament without a vote.

Total had to shut production units at three refineries, in Donges, Feyzin and Normandy, while deliveries from its Grandpuits refineries were blocked by protesters, prompting output to run at reduced flow, French oil industry group UFIP said. The fifth one in La Mede was operating normally.

In addition, three of Total’s nine oil depots were blocked by protesters.

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The news of fuel shortages and blockades sent drivers rushing to petrol stations, mainly in northwestern France where the refineries are located, to fill their tanks as a precaution.

UFIP said 317 out of Total’s 2,200 petrol stations in France had run out of all or some fuels on Saturday. Total runs nearly one petrol station out of five in the country.

Shell and Eni petrol stations were not facing any distruption, UFIP said.

Data for supermarkets, which sold more than 60% of the fuel in France last year, was not immediately available.

Several departments in the northwest imposed restrictions on limiting the volume of fuel per vehicle or banning jerry cans.

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“There is no need to panic,” UFIP spokeswoman said. “We have the products, refineries are working even if the flow has sometimes been reduced. The problem is to move around, there will be no shortage in the immediate future.”

A prolonged strike at refineries in France in 2010 led to a glut of crude in Europe because it could not be delivered to refineries, and a spike in refined products prices due to low output from refineries.

A CGT union official said on Friday the goal of the strike was not to create shortages but to obtain the withdrawal of the labor bill.