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Total starts up La Mède Biorefinery

France-headed oil and gas major Total S.A. has announced that it has started up production at the La Mède biorefinery in southeastern France, with the first batches of biofuel coming off the line. It is the final step in converting a former oil refinery into a new energies complex. Launched in 2015, the project represents a capital expenditure of EUR 275 million.

Total's La Mède site in southeastern France will include a biorefinery that will produce biodiesel from used oils as well as vegetable oils (photo courtesy Total).

Total’s La Mède site in southeastern France will include a biorefinery that will produce biodiesel from used oils as well as vegetable oils (photo courtesy Total).

The La Mède Biorefinery complex now comprises of:

  • A biorefinery with a capacity of 500 000 tonnes of biofuel per year.
  • An 8-MWe solar farm that can supply 13,000 people.
  • A unit to produce 50 000 m3 per year of AdBlue®, an additive that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions from trucks.
  • A logistics and storage hub with a capacity of 1.3 million m3 per year.
  • A training center offering real facilities and able to host 2,500 learners a year.

Together, these new activities have maintained 250 direct jobs at La Mède.

As part of the site transformation, 65 percent of the orders to remodel the complex were awarded to local businesses, representing 800 jobs and EUR 140 million in revenue. Total also invested EUR 5 million in the economic development of the Fos-Etang de Berre region, notably by supporting initiatives to create jobs, attract industrial projects and support contractors. That’s five times as much as a typical revitalization agreement.

HVO and biojet fuel production

The biorefinery can produce up to 500 000 tonnes of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), a premium renewable diesel biofuel. La Mède will produce both HVO and biojet fuel for the aviation industry. The facility was specifically designed to process all types of oil and its biofuels will be made from:

As part of an agreement with the French Government in May 2018, Total has pledged to process no more than 300 000 tonnes of palm oil per annum — less than 50 percent of the total volume of raw materials needed — and at least 50 000 tonnes of French-grown rapeseed, creating another market for domestic agriculture.

All the oils processed will be certified sustainable to European Union standards. In addition, as part of its palm oil procurement process, Total is taking an extra step by introducing strengthened control of sustainability and respect for Human Rights.

I’d like to thank the teams for all their hard work these last four years to convert our La Mède refinery. Biofuels are fully renewable and an immediately available solution to cut carbon emissions from ground and air transportation. When produced from sustainable raw materials, as at La Mède, they emit over 50% less carbon than fossil fuels. Our biorefinery will allow us to make biofuels in France that were previously imported, said Bernard Pinatel, President, Refining & Chemicals.

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