Total Exploration-Production rewards its best innovations

A major event in the Total calendar, the Best Innovators competition shines a light on the innovative solutions developed by Total’s E&P teams. Here is a brief overview of the technologies and processes that made it to the final in 2016, and were conceived to overcome the energy challenges of tomorrow.

Christophe Amadei

Best Innovators

Innovation is at the heart of Total’s business activities and areas of expertise. To help foster this, the Group created the Best Innovators contest to honor the most innovative minds in exploration and production. Every year, this competition encourages E&P teams to come up with new solutions to develop our operations in all areas - techniques, business, HSE, human resources, finance, communications, etc. For Best Innovators 2016, we shortlisted ten remarkable achievements coming from our employees.

Pushing the boundaries of deep offshore

Awarded the Grand Jury Prize, the Electrification of the Extreme project cements Total’s pioneering role in the development of deepwater fields and its front-line efforts to unlock access to offshore resources. This North Sea project delivers alternating currents underwater beyond previously known limits. Over a distance of 162 km, the longest static power cable in the world, designed and installed by Total, from the coast of Norway to the offshore rig on the Martin Linge field. This has resulted in more cost-effective and eco-friendly operations. The second major innovation is the world’s first dynamic electricity cable, which has just successfully connected the offshore rig to the FSO and is able to withstand extreme fatigue in difficult weather conditions. The progress made with this ground-breaking technology will open the door to offshore power supplies between floating structures.


At Block 17 off the coast of Angola, pushing the boundaries of operational excellence needs standardization. The five major projects carried out at this site over the years were developed using successive generations of subsea equipment. Unfortunately, their different interfaces mean they were incompatible with each other. Winner of the Employees’ Prize, the Universal Subsea Drilling System for Block 17 was conceived to overcome this technological complexity. The project brings together all existing systems into one single drill rig that can operate on all fields. Its introduction delivers added flexibility as well as reduced operational costs.


The All-Electric Subsea Well, a real technological breakthrough, is another notable innovation in offshore operations recognized by the Best Innovators panel. Offshore oil wells are currently controlled via hydraulic transmission. The solution developed by Total teams consists in replacing this system with an entirely electric infrastructure. In mid-2016, the Group began production at the world’s first fully electrically-controlled subsea well in the Dutch sector of the North Sea. This technology streamlines the system and improves its reliability. It will also help reduce investment costs in future deep offshore projects by up to 40%.

  • Electrification of the extreme: Dynamic cable fatigue test.
  • EOR skids: 3D view - One of the C-EOR skids.
  • The integrated compressor – a world first: ICLTM versus Conventional Package.
  • Universal subsea drilling: open water package installed onboard the Rig.
  • Early Bird: a hard-working and collaborative atmosphere
  • First all-electric subsea well: installation of the electric Christmas tree from the rig, sunset on K5F-3.
  • MRsat: unlike conventional rock, shale has low porosity and a dual network of pores (mineral and organic), which makes it more difficult to take measurements.
  • A Different Take on Salt : improved subsalt imagery and reservoir monitoring with cost-effective 4-D WELL Seismic to mitigate geoscience and drilling uncertainties and optimize field development.
  • Stayin’ Alive: the C2 and C3 storage facility.
  • Be In Be Flex: two of the tested ceramic membranes.
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Improved assessment of oil reservoirs

Optimizing the characterization of unconventional hydrocarbon reservoir systems remains a critical challenge for the oil and gas industry. A world-first, MRsat was awarded the Honorary Chairman’s Prize at the Best Innovators 2016 ceremony by the biology researcher Xavier Duportet. This innovative solution for the petrophysical assessment of oil shale involves determining the amount of oil and water held in the rock using nuclear magnetic resonance. Saturation measurements taken using MRsat are ten times more accurate than traditional methods using heat extraction or solvents, and also reduce operating times and costs by five. All of this with no risk of toxicity or destroying the samples.


Another challenge is how to improve the monitoring of changes in complex reservoirs at a lower cost. The Cost Control Prize was awarded to the Efficient Subsalt 4D Well Seismic project: an efficient alternative developed by the E&P teams at the Louro offshore field in Angola. This cost-saving solution improves the quality of subsalt geological imaging by installing permanent sensors in a development well, which can overcome the salt barrier that disrupts conventional seismic waves. This innovative 3D acquisition method makes it possible to listen to wavefronts in the immediate vicinity of reservoirs without the need for costly intervention with a drillship. The implementation of this solution improves the location of subsalt wells and optimizes production while also reducing production costs.

Simplifying operations

The Incahuasi Integrated Compressor project, another world-first, innovates by streamlining operations to make production facilities more efficient. Conventional motor-compressors are complicated and cumbersome. After a string of innovative breakthroughs, the E&P teams launched a new generation of oil-free, gas-cooled compressors equipped with powerful motors, the ICL, at the Incahausi field in Bolivia. The benefits of these are numerous: extremely compact, robust, no atmospheric emissions, reduced integration costs, and shorter commissioning lead times.


The Be In Be Flex solution deployed in Congo is a game-changer in the field of water filtration. Until now, each different type of water that needed to be treated required its own exclusive and specific technology. Exclusively patented by Total, the Flex process can filter seawater used in offshore operations and production water loaded with hydrocarbons using the same equipment. This common filtration unit for different types of process water, unprecedented in the industry, will reduce discharge and increase the proportion of recycled production water.


Technological integration is also at the heart of another major innovation that further cements Total’s leading position in improved oil recovery. The EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) skids - compact modular equipment contained within ISO containers - were developed by a cross-disciplinary team. These automated building blocks can be combined in a “plug and play” procedure. Thanks to its flexibility, the solution can quickly meet the needs of any scenario, through optimization and economic implementation of the most sophisticated onshore and offshore EOR techniques.

Daring innovation

Awarded the Second Jury Prize, Stayin’ Alive is another innovation that was recognized amongst the Best Innovators of 2016. On the ground, innovation can spring from operational constraints and the fight to survive. Faced with the escalating conflict in Yemen and the heightened security risk, the Yemen LNG (YLNG) site ceased production in April 2015. Since then, the on-site production of electricity using stored gas has been crucial to keeping the facility in good condition. However, cut off from the world and subject to the gradual evaporation of gas and ethane from the refrigeration circuit, there was only one choice left: to restart an LNG train by producing ethane on site. With the Stayin’ Alive project, the YLNG teams established a procedure to restart one of the four trains equipped with APCI technology, by using the cryogenic heat exchanger for ethane production.


The Early Bird Petroleum Engineering project enables employees to share their knowledge and expertise across different disciplines within the E&P division. Launched in 2014, this collaborative platform open to all sites is centered around an interactive weekly meeting, with video conferences held on VMT, Lync or Webinar. These sessions allow more than 3,000 employees in different business areas and career streams to build on their experience across all disciplines in petroleum engineering. The project nurtures a shared culture between teams and promotes the cross-fertilization of practices and ideas, two of the main crucibles for innovation.


First held in 2010, the Best Innovators competition examines all innovative projects carried out by E&P employees that embody Total’s values in terms of creation and innovation, listening, audacity, or multidisciplinarity. And it will be the same again this year, with recognition given for E&P innovators and their ability to share their innovations: the next Best Innovators awards will be held in June 2017!