Investing in Carbon Sink Businesses


Carbon storage is a key factor to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the 21st century. To help get there, we are focusing on carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology and on preserving and restoring ecosystems that act as carbon sinks, i.e., can absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. In its Sustainable Development Scenario, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is counting on more than 2 billion tons of carbon being captured and stored in 2040.To meet that challenge, we are pushing ahead with our commitment to speed up the development of CCUS, alone and in partnership with others.

Using ccus to make industry less carbon intensive

~10 %
of our R&D budget* is dedicated to carbon utilization and storage technologies.
*Excluding R&D focused on specialties.

We allocate 10% of our R&D budget and apply our expertise at every step in the CCUS process to make carbon reduction technologies more energy efficient.

We first got involved in developing CCUS technologies in 1996, as a partner in the Sleipner project — a pioneering Norwegian carbon capture platform. Alone or with partners, we have implemented several projects that already constitute significant advances:

  • The Lacq CO2 capture and storage pilot. Started in 2010, this pilot was a European first that enabled us to test a complete carbon capture, transportation and storage chain at one of our sites.
  • The Clean Gas Project, of which we are a partner alongside the OGCI and other oil majors, including BP, Eni, Equinor, Occidental Petroleum and Shell. It’s the first commercial-scale, fully integrated CCUS project in the United Kingdom. It was one of the earliest picks of OGCI Climate Investments, which funds technologies that significantly cut emissions. Launched in 2017, the organization is resourced at over $1 billion for 10 years.

Northern lights, a milestone in CCUS development

Total is involved alongside Equinor and Shell in the Northern Lights project in Norway, which focuses on transporting and storing carbon emissions produced by cement factories. The commercial-scale project aims to create 1.5 million tons of carbon storage capacity per year. A subsequent second phase would extend it to other industries, making Northern Lights the world’s first storage site to take delivery of carbon from industry sources in several countries.

The Northern Lights investment aims to spur the development of new commercial-scale carbon capture solutions in Norway and elsewhere in Europe.

Preserving and restoring ecosystems

Ecosystems, especially forests, store carbon naturally. Preserving them and restoring their role as carbon sinks is, in fact, crucial in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions.

To meet this challenge, we plan to create a dedicated business unit, complete with agro-environmental experts, to ramp up our activities in the field of natural carbon sinks. It will have an annual budget of $100 million in 2020.

At the same time, the Total Foundation, spearheaded chiefly by the Total Corporate Foundation, has made carbon sinks a key focus of its program, including:

  • Projects to preserve and restore forests, mangroves and wetlands, which store carbon naturally.
  • Initiatives to restore degraded soil, to increase land available for agriculture and meet food demand without thinning forest cover and also combat deforestation.
  • Support for initiatives to raise awareness and teach young people to preserve carbon sink ecosystems.

A strong commitment to carbon pricing

We advocate implementing carbon pricing to combat emissions. We believe that this helps fight climate change at its source, by creating incentives to move the energy mix in the right direction. Putting a price on carbon is the most efficient financial signal to change the rules of the game quickly and hasten the switch to low-carbon power generation.

We already use a carbon price to financially assess our own capital expenditure, to make sure our projects and long-term strategy are viable given climate challenges.

We are calling for the rapid adoption of pricing mechanisms that are tailored to specific circumstances, such as geographical region or economic sector, and can be gradually linked.

More broadly, we have been involved since 2015 in various international initiatives, including:

  • Paying for Carbon. In 2015, we and five other leading oil and gas companies called on the international community to implement carbon pricing mechanisms.
  • The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition. We contribute to this World Bank initiative in order to expand the reach of our messages.
  • The Climate Leadership Council. We recently joined the council as founding member and endorsed its carbon dividend project.