By Ahmad Ghaddar
LONDON, April 15 (Reuters) - Striking workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s Pernis plant in the Netherlands have taken offline a thermal gasoil installation, a Dutch union said on Monday, in the first sign of any impact from industrial action on Europe’s largest oil refinery.
Shell said earlier in the day that the unit had been shut. It later clarified that it had only repeated what the unions had said and would not comment on the status of the refinery.
The refinery, near Rotterdam, has the capacity to process 404,000 barrels per day of oil.
The CNV union also said strike action had disrupted planned maintenance at the adjacent Moerdijk petrochemical site.
A Shell spokeswoman said striking workers were trying to disrupt planned maintenance on the Moerdijk Lower Olefins (MLO) unit.
“Not taking out the factory for maintenance could have an effect on the environment, safety and licences, therefore we are keen to have the maintenance take place as scheduled,” she said.
It was not clear how long the maintenance was planned to last.
A CNV spokesman reiterated that the refinery was running at 65 percent capacity. The Shell spokeswoman declined to comment.
On April 10, when unions had said the refinery was running at that rate, Shell said it had not shut any units there.
“They won’t be able to get to the 65 percent unless they do shut it down but we are not at that point yet,” the Shell spokeswoman said then.
Genscape, a specialist firm that tracks refinery upsets and provides real-time updates, has not yet issued any major disruption alerts regarding the refinery.
On Friday, it detected flaring, which is usually a sign of unit malfunction. But Shell said there was no “significant” flaring that day, rather a “short process upset” may have led to flaring.
Labour unions will decide on Tuesday whether to escalate their strike action at Pernis and Moerdijk, the CNV said. (Reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar; Editing by Dale Hudson)