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French strikes keep record crude volumes on the water, crash storage levels

By Rowena Edwards

March 28 (Reuters) - French strike action has led to record amounts of crude and condensate sitting idly offshore while the country's crude stocks have plummeted, analysts said on Tuesday.

Around 17 cargoes carrying crude oil, oil products or chemical products have been floating in French waters for the past week, according to Kpler crude analyst Johannes Rauball.

"Seven of these cargoes are carrying around 7 million barrels of crude and condensate, which marks the highest level on record and represents double what we observed at the peak in October of last year," Rauball said.

Industrial action over the past three weeks has impacted every French refinery.

The walkouts differ from the strikes that took place in October, 2022 in that they are coordinated on a national level, also affecting ports and depots, said Koen Wessels, oil products analyst at Energy Aspects.

France's crude oil stocks have fallen to 40.3 million barrels in March, according to consultancy OilX, the lowest since the firm's records began in January, 2010.

France's refinery intake has fallen to its lowest level since October at 764,000 barrels per day (bpd), data from consultancy OilX show.

The country's oil stocks have fallen to 40.3 million barrels in March, according to consultancy OilX, the lowest since the firm's records began in January, 2010.

The absence of French buying interest has increased supplies elsewhere of crude grades from the North Sea, west Africa and blends from the Caspian pipeline, according to traders.

This has weighed on prices of these crude grades as market players are forced to look elsewhere for buyers.

"It's a pretty bad situation," one trader said.

French crude oil imports from Nigeria have averaged just 30,000 b/d so far this month, compared with an average 200,000 b/d in January and February, according to Kpler.

"A vast amount of Nigeria's April loadings schedule has gone unsold," Rauball said.

Meanwhile, the Ekofisk North Sea crude grade, produced at a field in Norway where TotalEnergies has equity, relies on France for two-thirds of its export stream.

No Ekofisk cargoes have been discharged in France this month, compared with an average of 85,000 b/d in January and February, Kpler data show.

(Reporting by Rowena Edwards in London, additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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