Europe’s diesel market is tightening faster than usual as strikes by French refinery workers choke off supplies.
The continental diesel oil sector, which is straining during the heating period, is at its highest point since the occupation of Ukraine, and traders have already avoided Russian barrels.
To make matters worse, a labour strike in France is limiting fuel production just as routine maintenance begins at oil refineries across Europe.
The European diesel market rallied this week as concerns about near-term availability grew. The contract closest to expiration is now more than $90 a tonne above November futures, the biggest gap since July. Futures rose to around $150 a barrel.
The strikes put more pressure on European diesel and fuel oil markets, which have remained low due to the loss of Russian supplies.
The move left gas stations in some parts of France running out of fuel, another headache for consumers and industry hit by a cost-of-living crisis and the worst energy crisis in decades.
Torbjorn Tornqvist, head of the oil trader Gunvor Group, said on Tuesday that the diesel market is moving towards the tight levels seen in the weeks after the invasion of Ukraine.
The French blackouts “come at exactly the wrong time for Europe’s energy security as they threaten to accelerate the depletion of product stocks ahead of a looming ban on imports of Russian products,” Facts Global Energy said in a statement on Tuesday.
France is a major fuel supplier, capable of processing more than one million barrels of oil per day. The strikes affected about two-thirds of the country’s capacity. The two largest refineries are the Normandy plant, operated by TotalEnergies SE, and Exxon Mobil Corp, Gravenchon: working below capacity.