Global oil and gas major Total S.A has announced that within the framework of its net-zero strategy, it plans to invest over EUR 500 million to repurpose its Grandpuits refinery in Seine-et-Marne, France into a zero-crude platform for the production of renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and bioplastics by 2024. Crude oil refining at the refinery will be discontinued in the first quarter of 2021 and the storage of petroleum products will end in late 2023.
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According to a statement, this decision to end its oil refining comes in the wake of an audit conducted over several months on the 260-kilometer Ile-de-France pipeline (PLIF), which carries crude oil from the Port of Le Havre to the Grandpuits refinery.
The refinery was forced to shut down for more than five months in 2019 when a leak appeared on the PLIF, following an earlier leak near Le Havre in 2014. With the approval of government officials, the PLIF’s maximum working pressure was reduced to ensure safe operation. As a result, the refinery could operate at only 70 percent of its capacity, threatening its long-term financial viability.
The audit found that normal operations at the refinery could be restored only by replacing the PLIF, at a cost of nearly EUR 600 million. Given France’s plans for the energy transition up to 2040, Total has decided to end its oil refining at Grandpuits and embark on an industrial transformation of the site backed by a major investment plan.
Three new industrial units – a biorefinery, a bioplastics plant, and a waste plastics recycling plant – will see the Grandpuits site become a model zero-crude platform in France.
With the industrial repurposing of the Grandpuits refinery into a zero-crude platform focused on energies of the future connected with biomass and the circular economy, Total is demonstrating its commitment to the energy transition and reaffirming its ambition to achieve carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050. Grandpuits will remain a major industrial site drawing on the know-how and expertise of its teams, and our partner firms will be playing a key role as well, said Bernard Pinatel, President of Total Refining & Chemicals.
Renewable fuels biorefinery
Total will construct a renewable diesel unit, primarily producing for the aviation industry. This initiative will contribute to France’s roadmap for deploying sustainable aviation fuel, which calls for a 2 percent SAF blend target by 2025 rising to 5 percent by 2030.
To be commissioned in 2024, the new renewable fuels unit will be able to process 400 000 tonnes of feedstock per annum, with a potential annual production of:
- 170,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF);
- 120,000 tonnes of renewable diesel (HVO);
- 50 000 tonnes of renewable naphtha, used to produce bioplastics.
The unit will process primarily animal fats from Europe and used cooking oil (UCO), supplemented with other vegetable oils like rapeseed but excluding palm oil. Total will prioritize local suppliers.
Biofuels that reduce carbon emissions by at least 50 percent compared to their fossil equivalents are one component of Total’s strategy for meeting the challenge of carbon neutrality.
Europe’s first bio-based PLA plant
Total Corbion PLA, a 50/50 joint venture between Total and Netherlands-headed Corbion nv, will build Europe’s first biobased polylactic acid (PLA) manufacturing plant at Grandpuits. Entirely produced from sugar instead of oil, PLA is a bioplastic that is biodegradable and recyclable. In 2018, Total Corbion successfully launched its first biobased PLA plant in Thailand.
The market for PLA is growing up to 15 percent annually. Demand is rising fast, particularly in the markets for film wrap and rigid packaging and in numerous industrial applications.
With an annual production capacity of 100 000 tonnes, this second plant will begin operations in 2024. Together with the existing 75 000 tonnes-per-annum plant in Thailand, this will make Total Corbion PLA the world’s biggest PLA producer.
The first chemical recycling plant for plastics in France
Total will also build France’s first chemical recycling plant for plastic together with UK-headed Plastic Energy. Using a proprietary thermal anaerobic technology (TAC) process developed by Plastic Energy, this plant will convert plastic waste into a liquid called TACOIL.
This TACOIL will then be used as feedstock for the production of polymers with identical properties to virgin polymers. In particular, they will be suitable for use in food-grade applications—a major criterion for food packaging businesses.
The new unit will help Total meet its objective of producing 30 percent of its polymers from recycled materials by 2030.
Two solar power plants
Finally, Total will build two solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, a 28 MWe capacity plant at the Grandpuits site, and a 24 MWe capacity plant at the Gargenville site. These solar PV installations will contribute to Total’s ambition to provide green electricity to all its industrial sites in Europe.
The plants will be built and operated by Total Quadran, a wholly-owned Total affiliate that specializes in renewable energy development and production in France.
A responsible industrial redeployment with no layoffs
Crude oil refining at Grandpuits will be discontinued in the first quarter of 2021 and the storage of petroleum products will end in late 2023, though Total stresses that it will comply with all of its contractual commitments to its customers.
Operations at service stations and airports in the Greater Paris region will not be affected by the closure as they will be supplied by the refineries at Donges— currently undergoing a EUR 450 million modernization — and Normandy.
Total says that it will carry out this industrial redeployment with no layoffs, with early retirements, and internal mobility within the Group’ sites, providing each employee with an appropriate solution.
Of the 400 jobs at the Grandpuits platform and its associated Gargenville, Yvelines depot today, 250 will be maintained after the conversion. Furthermore, 15 additional jobs will be created on the Grandpuits site in a packaging unit connected to the new bioplastics unit.
In addition, the work projects generated by this industrial investment of more than EUR 500 million will create up to 1 000 jobs over the three-year construction period of the new units.
Total has also carried out a thorough review of the partner companies working on the platform, which amount to the equivalent of 300 full-time jobs. The Group is committed to supporting each partner company during the industrial repurposing of the site.
In its new configuration, the Grandpuits platform will continue to prioritize its partner businesses, which will represent the equivalent of 200 full-time jobs. Total and the Ile-de-France region intend to launch a campaign to attract other industries to the property made available at the Grandpuits site and on industrial estates near the Grandpuits and Gargenville sites.
Under French law, the entire project is subject to the process of notifying and consulting employee representatives. Total is committed to pursuing meaningful dialogue with employee representative organizations, and will be initiating discussions with those bodies in late September.