Environmental protection is an integral part of our growth model. It is a prerequisite for managing our operations effectively and in a way that strengthens our social license to operate. It is also becoming a competitive advantage. In line with our commitments, we apply our expertise and know-how in a spirit of continuous improvement. This means being straightforward and transparent with our stakeholders and deploying increasingly efficient technologies to reduce the environmental footprint of our projects.
Environmental Protection: a Top Priority
Increasingly Stringent Environmental Standards
The negative impact of human activities on the environment, as seen in climate change, eroding biodiversity and water pollution, has raised the level of concern among both the general public and our stakeholders and led to increasingly stringent environmental regulations worldwide.
Not surprisingly, the environmental performance of our projects and oil and gas facilities plays a critical role in how they are perceived and accepted by the local population. Effective environmental performance is also a requirement for obtaining exploration or production authorizations from our host countries. That's why we put such a priority on this issue and analyze our environmental performance very closely.
Our environmental commitments support Total’s ambition to become the responsible energy major, with the goals of preserving the planet’s climate balance globally and doing more to protect the environment locally.
We apply the best environmental practices from our guidance to design and develop small-footprint oil and gas facilities everywhere we operate.
Our transparent communication on environmental performance and our clear targets show that we set the bar high and want to keep doing better. We talk regularly with stakeholders in our local development projects and take the same straightforward approach at the global level. In 2017, Total became the first major oil company to respond to CDP’s annual survey on water management by the world’s listed corporations.
An Environmental Performance Strategy
Total has fully integrated the climate challenge in its strategy to help keep the rise in the planet's average temperature since the pre-industrial period below 2°C by 2100. We walk the talk through our actions within the oil industry and the international community to pursue initiatives that contribute to this goal. In 2002, for example, Total joined the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), and in 2014, it and other founding members launched the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That same year, we became the first oil company to support the GGFR's call for zero routine flaring by 2030.
The Group has also made a commitment to refrain from prospecting or exploiting oil and gas in natural sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. This includes exploration of oil fields in the Arctic ice pack.
Lastly, Total systematically implements biodiversity action plans (BAPs) when developing projects in protected areas classified I through IV by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or in wetlands as defined by the Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention). These BAPs come on top of our procedures to assess and manage our impacts on local ecosystems.
Everywhere we operate, we implement the necessary resources to preserve biodiversity throughout our facilities' entire lifespan.
Taking the Environment into Account Every Step of the Way
Our approach is based on an in-depth understanding of the environment, because advance knowledge makes it easier to anticipate and avoid risks. We conduct an environmental impact assessment before each project in which we:
- Describe the initial state in a baseline study.
- Assess the possible impact of our activities as precisely as possible.
- Draw up a mitigation plan.
The environmental impact assessment includes a description of the baseline situation that serves as a reference all the way through to decommissioning or abandonment. This makes it possible to measure the actual impacts from our facilities and operations and to take any necessary measures to reduce, manage and potentially offset them.
Steps to protect the environment are taken at each stage of exploration and production, from pre-project studies to decommissioning.
Multidisciplinary teams combine chemists, biologists, ecologists, geologists, hydrogeologists, geomatic engineers and other experts to ensure that the multiple issues involved in rigorous environmental management are taken into account.
That said, environmental protection concerns everyone at Total. Numerous training sessions are held each year to instill best environmental practices and teach frontline staff how to include these practices in their daily work.
The environmental management systems at all our operated sites are certified ISO 14001. This standard, which calls for a tangible commitment to continuous improvement, is now applied at all our operated affiliates.
Similarly, we have rolled out an ISO 5001-based energy management system at our main operated assets to improve their energy efficiency.
These commitments are supported by clear, published targets for the period 2010-2020:
- Gradually reduce the carbon intensity of the Total’s energy mix, notably by lowering greenhouse gas emissions within our operated scope through:
- An 80% decrease in routine flaring in preparation for a total phase-out by 2030.
- An average 1% annual improvement in the energy efficiency of facilities.
- Reduce the hydrocarbon content of discharges to water to less than 30 milligrams per liter at offshore sites and 15 milligrams per liter at onshore and inshore sites.
- Cut atmospheric emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) at operated sites in half.
Total has been a pioneer in assessing its environmental performance. In 2005, we developed a proprietary system to measure reporting data and ensure its reliability. This centrally managed system is used at all affiliates to collect data in a uniform manner. The same rules apply at all sites. As part of our commitment to transparency, we publish a Climate Report each year with a full description of the results, any issues encountered and actions to be taken in the future.
Expertise to Match Our Commitments
Steady Advances in Managing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In the early 2000s, we pledged to refrain from routine flaring in our new projects. At the same time, we have been cutting back on flaring at legacy sites each year. The results speak for themselves, with a decline of close to 77% between 2010 and 2016.
In new projects designed without gas flaring, strategies for using associated gas are developed on a case-by-case basis to suit each field’s location and specific characteristics. At the deep offshore Moho North field, which came on stream in the Republic of the Congo in 2017, associated gas is used to generate power for the gas lift system. The excess gas expected in the early years of operation is exported to the neighboring Nkossa field. Redundancy of the high-pressure gas compressor prevents any flaring of gas linked to a potential breakdown in this critical equipment.
Optimizing energy efficiency was a key driver in Moho Nord's development. The all-electric floating production unit (FPU) was designed to generate the power needed for operation while limiting gas combustion, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, heat recovered from the turbine generators’ exhaust is used to produce hot water, also reducing energy demand.
We are also working to phase out routine flaring at our existing fields. In December 2014, for example, we halted flaring at the Ofon field offshore Nigeria, which has been in production since 1997. The associated gas is now compressed and exported to the onshore Nigeria LNG plant, avoiding flaring of one million cubic meters per day. The challenges are more complex at our legacy fields as they were not designed for associated gas recovery.
Efficient, Cost-Effective Technologies for Cleaner Discharges
We get much of the water for our production processes directly from the ocean. Because the seawater is mainly injected in the subsurface to maintain reservoir pressure, it has no environmental impact.
Produced water, around half of which is reinjected, accounts for most of our discharges. For water recycling to be sustainable on offshore facilities, it is crucial to reduce the cost, weight and footprint of the treatment processes required to meet reinjection standards. In 2016, we confirmed our lead in this area by validating the first "two in one" water treatment technology, known as FLEX. This fine filtration process developed and patented by Total can treat seawater and produced water successively or together with a single ceramic membrane unit. This solution substantially reduces treatment unit weight, size and cost.
We are extremely vigilant about the quality of our water discharges, as our performance attests. In 2017, the overall hydrocarbon content of our discharges to water stood at 17.7 milligrams per liter at offshore sites and 8.0 milligrams per liter at onshore sites. All of our facilities met our targets of 30 milligrams per liter at offshore sites and 15 milligrams per liter at onshore sites. In line with new European Union regulations, we have deployed technologies and methods that ensure our discharges have no significant toxic impact on the marine environment.
Targeted Responses to Protect Biodiversity
We work in a wide variety of ecosystems — from deltas and tundra to deep and ultra-deep waters — and sometimes in vulnerable natural environments. In every situation, preserving biodiversity is a key objective of our environmental management. Our approach is to avoid, reduce, mitigate and, if necessary, compensate so that our projects result in no net loss in biodiversity or, whenever possible, a net gain.
The baseline study provides an inventory of the species and ecosystems in the area of interest to us. The study is conducted long before operations begin and contains ad hoc data supplemented by observations carried out in the field with experts such as marine mammal or protected species specialists.
We use this inventory and understanding of the potential impacts on biodiversity to devise action and monitoring plans that will help us limit those impacts as much as possible and track the situation carefully over time. Stakeholders including governments, local residents, local environmental nonprofits and regional environmental agencies are closely involved in this process.
Biodiversity Action Plans for Vulnerable Areas
We have pledged to draw up Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) in vulnerable areas such as those classified I through IV by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or as wetlands under the Ramsar Convention.
With these BAPs, preservation of plant and animal life has become a strategic part of our overall environmental management policy. We bring in biodiversity experts to identify vulnerable species and define appropriate preservation initiatives.
In Gabon, for example, we inventoried the species in the Atora area with specialists from The Biodiversity Consultancy Ltd, WWF Gabon and the Wildlife Conservation Society. These experts fanned out across the area to identify and count the animals that live there. Some forty hidden cameras were installed to automatically photograph any animals that came close. Discussions with local stakeholders based on this inventory led us to set up a security system on our license to support the national anti-poaching plan.
This transparency with local stakeholders about our biodiversity management carries through at the international level. We place great importance on reporting our results in scientific publications and at conferences in order to build up the knowledge base on biodiversity and its responsible management.
Preparing for Accidental Pollution to Respond Effectively
Operational spill response plans have been established for all sites deemed at risk for significant accidental pollution of surface water so that we can respond to a spill in the most effective way and limit its consequences. The plans are specific to each site and tailored to the local organization and environment. They are reviewed and tested regularly.
Since 1991, we have had our own Fast Oil Spill Team (FOST) based in southern France. Its technicians can intervene immediately offshore Europe and West Africa and deploy additional equipment alongside local resources to fight pollution. The FOST experts share their know-how in training sessions for local teams and in practical exercises.
Deep Offshore Expertise and Cutting Edge-Technologies
As a major operator of deep offshore fields, we have developed specific know-how and technologies to respond effectively in this environment.
• In 2013, we conducted a full-scale exercise in Angola that simulated a massive release of oil at a great depth. The exercise was unprecedented in scale and required a year of preparation with local authorities and industrial partners. Local and international teams deployed considerable resources, including satellite images, ships, airplanes and helicopters, and tested innovative technologies during the three-day mock disaster. This major investment demonstrated that our operational response was both quick and effective.
• The Spill Watch modeling software developed by our R&D teams has taken the reliability and precision our spill trajectory forecasting to an entirely new level. The software integrates virtually real-time acquisition of ocean and weather data, satellite images and spill movement models, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of our response plans, including in terms of resources and location.
• Since 2014, we have stationed subsea capping and subsea containment equipment in South Africa, Brazil, Singapore and Norway. Developed jointly with our colleagues in the oil and gas industry, the equipment allows us to respond quickly in the event of a blowout during drilling. In addition, we have designed and developed our own Subsea Emergency Response System with equipment in Angola (since 2015) and in Republic of the Congo (since 2016) that can potentially cover the entire Gulf of Guinea.
Sustained Investment to Support Technological Innovation
Our R&D teams develop innovative solutions to meet the challenges raised by Total’s proactive environmental strategy. These include:
- Processes to improve discharge and emissions quality at lower cost and to reduce our operations’ impact on air, water and soil.
- Advanced monitoring technologies to optimize impact measurement and tracking so we can demonstrate our sites’ shallow environmental footprint to stakeholders.
Cost Control Challenges
In an environment of volatile oil prices, it is important to reduce the costs involved in managing our environmental impacts so that the related processes and technologies can be integrated on a routine basis at our facilities.
This issue is especially critical for accelerating deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies. CCUS will be indispensible for achieving carbon neutrality in the second half of the 21st century, thanks notably to lower capture costs.
We conducted a demonstration project from 2010 to 2013 in Lacq, France that gave us valuable expertise in oxy-fuel combustion capture followed by storage in a depleted gas reservoir. We are now stepping up our efforts through partnerships with industry players and universities to both optimize existing technologies and promote completely new research that can deliver less costly solutions. Our participation in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) fits in with this approach, as does our 2017 agreement to join forces with the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Shell and Statoil within Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM). TCM’s industrial-scale facility will be used to improve carbon capture processes and make them more reliable, while reducing their cost and environmental impact.
Cutting costs is also crucial for treatment technologies designed to eliminate negative impacts from water releases in marine environments. Our BIOMEM biological treatment process, pilot-tested in 2017, represents a major advance in this area. With a much smaller footprint than existing biological processes, BIOMEM detoxifies produced water faster and considerably reduces the cost of this key step in removing dissolved compounds.
Toward Continuous In-Situ Monitoring
Public acceptance of our operations depends on our ability to demonstrate that they do not impact the environment. For this reason, a substantial portion of our R&D commitment goes to developing next-generation technologies for continuous, in-situ monitoring of air and surface and subsurface water quality.
One key area of exploration concerns ways to detect and measure methane emissions stemming primarily from leaks or safety-related venting. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a higher global warming potential (GWP) than carbon dioxide. The dual challenge is to optimize detection near potential leaks so they can be repaired rapidly and to improve the precision of measurements taken around our sites. To do this, we are leveraging hyperspectral imaging, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology and drone-borne methane sensors. We are currently miniaturizing a compact diode laser spectrometer that offers the requisite sensitivity (in the one-part-per-billion range) and frequency (three measurements per second) for our site monitoring needs.
As for water quality monitoring near our offshore facilities, a demonstration project launched at the ABK field in Abu Dhabi in 2017 is expected to confirm the remarkable potential of high-frequency non-invasive valvometry. This innovative biomonitoring technique takes advantage of bivalve mollusks’ extreme sensitivity to environmental stress to obtain continuous, real-time data. Micro-sensors on the mollusks’ valves measure their opening and closing cycles, thereby providing information on the animals’ stress level.
These are just a few examples of our proactive innovation strategy to support responsible energy — in other words, energy that preserves the environmental balance both locally and globally.
DIESTA: Optimizing Efficiency During LNG Liquefaction
BIOMEM: a Compact Biological Process to Treat Produced Water