What is the latest with France’s petrol and diesel shortages?

All oil refineries are now unblocked but shortages persist in the region around Paris and to the south-west of the French capital

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Drivers in France have been handed a boost after the country’s last oil refinery blockade was lifted.

The ending of a strike at Gonfreville-l'Orcher refinery in Seine-Maritime, Normandy, on Tuesday (April 11) means that petrol and diesel shortages in some parts of France should soon begin to ease.

Since early March, all seven of France’s major refineries have seen some form of strike action, with many being blocked for weeks as protests over France’s controversial pension reforms - that include raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 - continue.

The ending of the strike in Normandy means deliveries to petrol stations can now resume.

But shortages persist, in particular in the Paris region and departments to the south-west of the French capital.

Strikes are finished… for now

Unlike in other areas such as transport and education - where industrial action is usually compartmentalised to the national days of action - refinery workers had been on a ‘grève reconductible’, or renewable strike, maintaining action and then voting again over whether to continue.

Strike action at refineries was fraught with high tension, amid government-sanctioned requisitions of workers and fears over the dwindling fuel supplies in the country.

One by one, blockades of refineries have ended and on April 11 a vote was passed to end strike action at the Gonfreville-l'Orcher refinery.

Workers and unions will have one eye on Friday’s (April 14) Constitutional Council decision on the pension reforms, and, depending on the outcome, may go back on strike again.

For now, however, deliveries of fuel from the refinery at Gonfreville have resumed, and production of fuel at the site will begin again in a few days, according to TotalEnergies.

Read more: Updated: Dates and sectors of upcoming pension strikes in France

A brief spike in shortages

Fuel shortages, however, are still affecting a number of stations across France.

As of Tuesday (April 11), FranceInfo reported around 11.5% of petrol stations were experiencing shortages of at least one fuel.

This is the highest number since the beginning of the month, but there are some important caveats.

Firstly, despite the end of refinery blockades, restarting the production of fuel can take up to two weeks, and the production facilities at Gonfreville-l'Orcher have been completely shut down since March 21.

On top of this, Easter weekend saw not only a lot of vehicles on the roads but also the suspension of Sunday and Monday fuel deliveries, on account of the April 10 public holiday.

Shortages are heavily localised – around half of all stations affected by shortages are found in Centre-Val de Loire or the Île-de-France regions, with other regions only lightly touched, meaning most drivers in France will be largely untouched by problems.

With France quickly returning to its pre-strike capacity, however, the number of fuel shortages is expected to decrease in the coming days - unless strike action at the refineries is resumed once again.

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