The French government has urged employees, around 470 people, at the Petit-Couronne refinery in Normandy not to lose hope.
The owners of their work place, Switzerland’s Petroplus, filed for bankruptcy in early last year.
The firm’s administrators rejected all bids for the French site on February 7, saying they are preparing to shut it down and fire all the staff.
The French government, however, believes bids from Terrae International SA of Switzerland and Egyptian firm Arabiya Lel Istithmaraat had merit.
Minister for Industry Arnaud Montebourg said on February 7 that the government was working with potential acquirers to “save jobs and refining capacity”:
“We are confident that two of the six tenders filed are serious, credible and have funding,” Montebourg said.
Paris also said it might take a stake in the plant to keep it going.
Profits from European oil refining have been falling for years. France had 24 operating refineries in 1977, down to 12 in 2009. Today, there are at just eight.