To keep up with changing fuel demand, Total spent €740 million to upgrade the Normandy refinery, to shift the facility’s production emphasis and improve its energy efficiency. In 2011, €250 million was invested to upgrade the Gonfreville petrochemical plant and enhance its energy efficiency. Together, the two facilities form the Normandy complex.

The Challenge: Producing More Diesel and Less Gasoline

The Normandy complex comprises France’s largest refinery in terms of crude processing capacity, as well as a petrochemical plant. As demand trends change the platform had to adapt to:

  • Declining petroleum product consumption in Europe.
  • A shift away from gasoline and heating oil to diesel.

To enable the Normandy complex to meet these new challenges, we launched the RN 2012 program in March 2009. This €740 million investment shifted the site’s production emphasis and enhanced its overall energy efficiency.

Thirteen Projects With a Triple Objective

RN 2012 was a sweeping upgrade program comprising 13 projects to build, revamp or replace units. Ultimately, refining capacity has been cut to 12 million metric tons a year from 16 million. RN 2012 was designed to meet three objectives:

  • Shift the production focus to diesel
    The refinery is now able to produce an additional 500,000 metric tons of diesel a year thanks to two major capital investment projects designed to increase the capacity of the distillate hydrocracker (DHC), a unit that produces primarily diesel, and the atmospheric distillation unit.
  • Reduce gasoline surpluses
    Revamping the production configuration scaled back surplus production by 60%, or 1.1 million metric tons.
  • Improve energy and environmental performance
    By cutting its energy and water use, the Normandy complex reduced its environmental footprint. In addition, the RN 2012 program decreased air emissions, with 30% less carbon dioxide emissions.

The program was completed at end-2013, after four years of work involving the 1,100 facility employees and nearly 3,000 contractor employees.

Technology: The Challenge of Performing Work While the Site Continued to Operate


The various projects were complex, because most were carried out while the refinery continued to operate. Some of them were spectacular:

  • Installation of the new preflash tower, which increased atmospheric distillation capacity. The column is 38 meters tall and seven meters in diameter and weighs more than 150 metric tons.
  • Installation of the 18-meter Packinox® heat exchanger, which replaced the previous 16 heat exchangers, enhancing the unit’s energy efficiency.
  • Debottlenecking of the distillate hydrocracker (DHC), a unit that produces ultra-low sulfur diesel, naphtha and jet fuel from a distillate fraction. This operation has increased the site’s diesel production by 500,000 metric tons a year.
  • Upgrading of the main furnace in the atmospheric distillation unit to improve the site’s energy and environmental performance.
  • Construction of the DGO5, a diesel desulfurization unit supplied with high-purity hydrogen from the Gonfreville petrochemical plant. The unit produces ultra-low sulfur diesel that meets European standards.

Refining and Petrochemical Synergies

One of the 13 RN 2012 projects aimed to strengthen synergies between the Normandy refinery and the Gonfreville l’Orcher petrochemical plant. The two were combined on January 1, 2013 to form the integrated Normandy complex, subsequent to the creation of our Refining & Chemicals business segment.

The pipeline between the two sites allows the Gonfreville plant to supply high-purity hydrogen to the refinery’s diesel desulfurization unit. Synergies in utilities streams — fuel oil, steam and others — offer many opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of both sites.

Managing Every Aspect to Ensure Safe, Environmentally Responsible Operations

Like all Total sites, the Normandy refinery is closely monitored and undergoes regular audits. Certified ISO 9001 and ISO 17025, it applies management guidance to deliver efficient safety, health, environmental, product quality and customer relationship performance. ISO 14001 certification recognizes the quality of the site’s environmental management system.

Social and Economic Impact: Promoting Local Employment

We strive to draw on the skills found in the Le Havre region and to involve them in the refinery and petrochemical plant maintenance and upgrade for the various RN 2012 projects. In partnership with the service providers selected for the projects, we have implemented the Total Emploi Local initiative, previously deployed at the Gonfreville petrochemical plant. Total Emploi Local is a joint, co-developed initiative that leverages the skills and expertise of the region’s socioeconomic stakeholders in the areas of employment, workforce entry and training, by identifying the competencies available and introducing appropriate training initiatives.

During the maintenance and upgrade turnaround, a Total Emploi Local office was set up on the refinery site to match jobseekers and potential employers for our projects in Le Havre.

Key Figures

RN 2012 investment

  • €740 million

Normandy refinery production capacity

  • 12 million metric tons of crude oil a year refined into around 200 products.
  • Diesel production increased by 10%.
  • Gasoline production cut by 60%.


  • 3,000 contractor employees provided their expertise.
  • 200 contractors took part.
  • More than 4 million hours of work.


  • 1,000 metric tons of piping installed.
  • 600 tons of metal structures assembled.