We believe that prevention is the best response to pollution. By anticipating pollution risks, we can more effectively prepare for them and respond immediately in the event of an emergency. We are engaged in an improvement process based on accident analysis, experience sharing and real-life drills.
Why it matters
Oil and gas operations pose specific environmental risks. Accidental pollution can have serious consequences for both the environment and a company's business performance, which is why a quick response is important for mitigating potential community and environmental impacts. At Total, protecting the population and ecosystems of our host regions is a top priority. It is key to maintaining the trust of the local communities on which our operations depend.
A core component of our operations: risk prevention
Risk prevention lies at the heart of our operations. The first step is to conduct a detailed assessment of the specific pollution risks at each of our sites.
To reduce these risks and limit environmental impacts, we focus in particular on:
- Designing equipment that is safer, more reliable and more efficient.
- Maintaining and inspecting equipment and facilities.
- Using monitoring and control systems to rapidly detect problems, especially leaks.
- Selecting means of transportation and routes that limit the risk of accidents.
All employees are informed about industrial risk. This Group-wide safety culture is reinforced by the involvement of all teams in real-time crisis simulations.
To monitor progress and ensure the highest level of preparedness, we have created a Risk Committee that brings together representatives from the relevant departments. The Committee analyzes the environmental hazards of each of our projects, as well as their impact on the health of the local population, while also taking into account community engagement concerns. Once projects are reviewed by the Risk Committee, they are ready to be submitted to the Executive Committee for approval.
Lula: a simulation exercise to improve preparedness
In November 2013, we conducted a full-blown crisis exercise simulating a deep offshore spill in Angola. The drill, code-named Lula, took a year to prepare and was carried out together with the local authorities and various industrial partners. Significant human resources and equipment were deployed over a three-day period, including satellite images, drifters, boats, a plane, helicopters, as well as teams in Luanda, Angola and Paris, France.
Thanks to Lula, we were able to evaluate our emergency response capabilities under real-life conditions and test several innovative technologies for the first time.
In November 2013, Total organized a crisis exercise off the Angolan coast. Code named "Lula", it aimed to help the Group prepare the most effective response in the event of a major offshore oil spill
The exercise simulated a leak from an underwater oil well located 1,000 meters below the surface. More than 400 people took part in the three-day simulation, including Total experts, partners and the Angolan authorities
Crisis centers were set up in France and Angola for the duration of the exercise and put in direct contact with the Angolan authorities
Aerial surveys, satellite imagery, drifters and spill modeling tools: several techniques and technologies were used to assess the size of the spill and how it was developing so we could adapt our response accordingly
For example, with the approval of the authorities, an observation balloon fitted with visible-light and infrared cameras was deployed to monitor the small spill day and night
Our experts at sea supervising the installation of a subsea dispersant injection system, which had been shipped from Norway to the Angolan base
Once installed 1,000 meters underwater, the injection system secured surface operations to regain control of the well and clean up the spill, while reducing the environmental impact
At the same time, the oil spill response plan provided for oil confinement and removal operations at the water's surface using ships, booms and pumps
The areas with the highest concentration of oil at the surface were also treated with dispersants, which are sprayed onto the oil slick with precision to speed up the natural degradation process
Throughout the operations, physical and chemical analyses were regularly carried out to ensure the safety of participating staff
Lula was a success, enabling Total to improve its offshore spill response capabilities and share its findings with the rest of the oil industry
Our plans and resources for responding to an emergency
In order to respond effectively in the event of a crisis, we have implemented emergency plans at all of our sites that pose a pollution risk. The plans specify the procedures to be followed and call for the use of equipment that has been approved by both internal and external industrial safety specialists.
As part of these emergency plans, we are strengthening our response capabilities through agreements with organizations specialized in pollution control, such as Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL), CEDRE, a French organization that conducts research into accidental water pollution and Clean Caribbean & Americas. These organizations provide the expertise, resources and equipment needed in all of our host regions.
FOST: Total's response base for Europe and West Africa
In 1991, Total established an oil spill response base in southern France, near Marseille. The Fast Oil Spill Team (FOST), operated by the most able firefighters from the Marseille fire brigade, can respond immediately to emergencies off the coast of Europe and West Africa. FOST has cleanup equipment that can be deployed for initial use in an emergency. Backed by a high level of expertise, FOST is the ideal provider of know-how to local teams via training and emergency drills.
Leveraging feedback from experience
Every accident is unique and offers us an opportunity to enhance our prevention and response capabilities. By analyzing an accident, we can identify the causes and understand how and why it happened. Our objective is to do everything possible to avoid a repeat and limit the consequences in the event another accident occurs. Our detailed analyses go beyond the Group and cover high-potential accidents and incidents across the industry. We work hand in hand with our peers to establish the criteria for defining and adopting the relevant best practices.
Deepwater Horizon: return on experience
Following the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in the Macondo oil field operated by BP in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, we took precautionary measures to avoid a similar accident from happening at our facilities. Three task forces were set up to analyze the risks and mitigate them as effectively as possible. The first group was dedicated to deepwater drilling safety, the second to deep offshore oil recovery and the third to accidental spill prevention. Their work has enabled us to devise various solutions for curtailing risks. For example, we have revised our technical guidelines for deepwater drilling and increased the number of targeted training programs. We have developed new well plugging and surface recovery methods. And, where necessary, we have adopted new well intervention methods, enhanced our subsea dispersant injection capabilities, implemented new modeling tools for tracking oil spills and improved our crisis management program.