The oil company ExxonMobil sheds part of its sites in France and cuts 677 jobs – 04/11/2024 at 3:41 p.m.

The ExxonMobil site, in Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine in Seine-Maritime on October 12, 2022 (AFP / LOU BENOIST)

The American oil giant ExxonMobil announced Thursday a reduction in its activities in Port-Jérôme (Normandy), which “should lead to the elimination of 677 jobs”, as well as a planned sale, via its subsidiary Esso France, of the refinery of Fos-sur-Mer and fuel depots in the south of France to a Swiss consortium.

Several petrochemical units, not “economically viable”, including a steam cracker, will be shut down on the Gravenchon site, in Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine, near Le Havre (Seine-Maritime), the group indicated in a press release.

In an e-mail sent to its employees on Thursday, ExxonMobil promised “to find a solution for all those who would be affected” by these “departures, voluntary or not.”

“This is a terrible announcement for employees and their families,” reacted Thursday the Minister of Industry, Roland Lescure. “The group has an absolute obligation to offer reclassification prospects for employees and development for the site.”

The prefecture of Seine-Maritime also deplored an announcement which “comes to have a very heavy impact on employment and the economy of the territory”, promising that the State will support “when the time comes” initiatives for “economic revitalization” of the area. .

To explain the difficulties of its petrochemical site, ExxonMobil pointed to “the configuration of the steam cracker” and “its size compared to large newly built units”, but also to cyclical factors such as “higher operating and energy costs in Europe”. which “make it uncompetitive”.

“Chemicals actually experienced a loss of 300 million in 2023 but the profit from oil is 1 billion over the same period”, reacted Thursday Pierre-Antoine Auger, elected (FO) of the CSE on the Port-Jérôme site . “We feel sadness and anger, we don’t yet know how we are going to react,” he said.

The Port-Jérôme refinery will continue its activities, the group said.

A subsidiary of ExxonMobil, Esso France also announced on Thursday its plan to sell its Fos-sur-Mer refinery (Bouches-du-Rhône) to the company Rhône Energies, as well as that of the Esso depots in Toulouse and Villette-de. -Vienna (Isère).

The candidate for the takeover, Rhône Energies, a Swiss consortium made up of the trading giant Trafigura and the American refinery operator Entara, is committed to “maintaining the employment of the 310 employees on the site”, explained to the AFP Dereck Becht, director of operations at Entara.

The Port-Jérôme and Fos-sur-Mer refineries have refining capacities of 12 and 7 million tonnes respectively.

They are one of eight conventional refineries in France (seven in mainland France and one in Martinique), according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

The sector employs between 5,000 and 10,000 direct jobs, according to Ufip, the union of oil companies.

– Energy costs –

This reorganization of ExxonMobil’s activities in France comes against a backdrop of difficulties for employees of French oil platforms.

This is due in particular to excessively high energy costs, because refining must buy its energy to operate, in particular gas and electricity. However, “natural gas in France costs in a stable manner approximately twice as much as it cost before Covid. And before Covid, it already cost much more than what it costs in North America”, according to the president of Ufip, Olivier Gantois.

Another stone in the sand, the decline in demand for petroleum products, with oil heating losing momentum and the gradual electrification of the automobile fleet.

But “we believe that the Fos-sur-mer refinery is a competitive refinery,” said Dereck Becht. “It is promised a long lifespan, and we plan to continue to invest in reducing energy consumption” and in “reducing carbon intensity”, according to him.

“In 2050, in France, there will perhaps still be one, or even several, refineries which will process oil,” estimates Olivier Gantois. “But there will be others that no longer process it, and it is likely that those that still process oil will at that point process a mixture of oil and biomass.”

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