France taps oil reserves amid refinery blockade

Striking workers of French oil giant Total set up a burning barricade to block the entrance of the oil refinery of Donges, near Nantes, October 18, 2010 Petrol stations are closing as refinery blockades and panic buying hit fuel supplies

France is using its emergency fuel reserves as supplies are hit by strikes over state pension reforms, the International Energy Agency has said.

France, like other members of the body, were obligated to keep at least 90 days of oil imports on hand as emergency reserves, it said.

France had already begun to draw down on the 30-day reserves held by the oil industry, it said..

About 1,500 petrol stations in France have run dry or are about to close.

All but one of France's 12 refineries have stopped production as refinery workers joined the strike.

Oil reserves

  • France, like other European countries, has at least 90 days of oil reserves
  • Emergency reserves are held by oil industry and last for 30 days
  • Strategic reserves are controlled by the government and last for 60 days.
  • The reserves are divided between crude and "oil products" - petrol, diesel and heating oil
  • The reserves are held at France's 12 refineries and 100 oil depots

Source: IEA

Aad Van Bohemen, head of the IEA's emergency policy division, said it was unlikely that France would have to tap its government-controlled strategic oil reserves that last for 60 days.

Reserves are constantly replenished by oil imports, he said.

France's reserves are 50% crude oil and 50% "oil products", such as petrol, diesel and heating oil.

He expected shortages caused by panic buying to be short-lived as hoarding of petrol is not allowed in France.

"People aren't allowed to fill up jerry cans," he said.

The reserves are held at the country's 12 refineries and 100 depots across the country.

Some strategic oil reserves are held at an underground storage facility in the south of the country.

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