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BP shutting down major British oil pipeline ahead of strike

Energy giant British Petroleum (BP) was shutting down a pipeline carrying nearly half of Britain's oil late Saturday ahead of a 48-hour strike over pension issues.

The pipeline carries an average of 700,000 barrels per day, nearly half the country's daily output of 1.5 million barrels. One-fifth of Britain's gas supply also relies on the Fortis system.

About 1,200 workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery in central Scotland planned to start the strike on Sunday over pension issues, one of a series of labor disputes to hit Britain as the global economy weakens.

The planned strike has already led to the closure of a major refinery and has prompted some panic fuel buying. And it is the first to close a British refinery in more than 70 years.

Industry lobby group Oil & Gas UK called on the government to intervene in the issue.

The strike is now affecting some 80 companies and their operations which are in no way connected to or involved in this dispute, the group said.

The government said there will be no overall shortage of fuel but accepts that there may be some local supply problems.

“There is plenty of petrol and diesel in Scotland to meet demand during this period of time, but of course there is going to be challenge if people change the way that they consume fuel,” British Energy Secretary John Hutton said.

Talks to resolve the dispute collapsed earlier this week. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the strike was unnecessary and called for new negotiations. (Xinhua)