Greenpeace activists have blocked land and river access to Exxon Mobil's largest refinery in France, dubbing the world's biggest oil firm “Climate Enemy No. 1”.
Around sixty environmentalists, some dressed as Esso's tiger mascot, used trucks and dinghies to halt traffic to and from Esso's Port Jerome refinery and petrochemical plant near Le Havre in northern France, Greenpeace said.
“We plan to stay as long as we possibly can,” said Greenpeace campaign leader Laetitia de Marez.
Esso France, an Exxon Mobil subsidiary, was unable to immediately say how the blockade was affecting refinery and chemical operations, since it said the company's first priority was to ensure the security of the site and its personnel.
“There is a group of activists inside the site and until we have the situation under control, we can't say more,” an Esso spokesman in Paris said.
Esso France refines 12.9 million tonnes of crude oil a year at its two sites.
Greenpeace said in a statement it had mounted the blockade to protest what it called Esso's “sabotage” of international efforts to halt climate change.
Trucks with flat tyres were stationed in front of three of the four gates onto the site, and Greenpeace's flagship Rainbow Warrior was blocking river access to the plant.
The fourth gate onto the site, near the town of Notre-Dame-de-Grevanchon is for emergency vehicles only.
Workers arriving at the site were unable to get in and formed a long tailback of cars. Greenpeace has led a recent high-profile global campaign against Esso, and this latest blockade comes just days before U.S. President George W. Bush is due in France. Bush's administration withdrew from the international Kyoto climate accord to cut greenhouse emissions, widely blamed for global warming and climate change.