Workers at Grangemouth refinery to stage 48-hour strike

LONDON Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:04pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Workers at the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical plant operated by Ineos in Scotland will go on a 48-hour strike from Sunday October 20, a union source said, potentially disrupting the flow of Brent crude from the North Sea.

The shutdown is likely to force a closure of the North Sea's Forties Pipeline System as the Kinneil oil processing terminal, where oil from the Forties field comes ashore, relies on Grangemouth for its steam and power.

An Ineos spokesman said the firm was trying to minimise the impact of the strike: "We are doing all we possibly can to maintain supplies at current levels. There are relatively high stocks of fuel, and we are looking to import additional fuels."

The Forties pipeline was expected to deliver some 387,000 barrels per day in October. Despite the threat to supplies, at 1700 GMT, spot Brent crude was down 0.7 percent at $111.01 a barrel.

Staff across the complex have been working to rule and refusing overtime since Monday in a dispute over Ineos's treatment of union organiser Stephen Deans.

Ineos says the Grangemouth petrochemical plant has been losing money for four years and will have to close unless it can lower costs by cutting jobs and renegotiating pensions.

"We condemn this action as it is putting the future of the plant at risk," the Ineos spokesman said.

A source at the Unite union said it had offered full safety cover over the strike period at no cost to avoid a "hot shutdown", which would have meant that the pipeline and terminal could remain in operation. But it said Ineos had turned down the offer. The Forties oil field was closed by a similar 48-hour strike in 2008.

The Grangemouth refinery processes 210,000 barrels of oil per day and provides most of Scotland's fuel. It is owned jointly by Ineos and PetroChina.

The Scottish government said the announcement of the strike "reinforces our fundamental view that this dispute can only be properly and fully resolved by negotiation between the company and the trade unions".

"We will now redouble our efforts to encourage negotiation to avert a strike," it added, "whilst taking forward contingency planning activity."

Nick Vandervell of the UK Petroleum Industry Association said: "At this stage, it is not clear what form strike action will take and how it might affect refinery or other operations."

(Additional reporting by Claire Milhench and David Sheppard; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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