Anti-Pollution Measures: Preparedness and Response

Marine firefighters demonstrate oil spill response equipment Démonstration par les marins-pompiers des moyens de lutte contre la pollution des hydrocarbures.

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. All new industrial projects are submitted to a Risk Committee, which 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. 

At the local level, prevention involves conducting a detailed assessment of the specific risks of accidental pollution 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.

Being Prepared to Take Action

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.

Lula, a Large-Scale Crisis Exercise
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    Collaborateur de Total participant à l’exercice Lula
    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
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    Collaborateur de Total participant à l’exercice Lula
    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
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    Collaborateur de Total participant à l’exercice Lula
    Crisis centers were set up in France and Angola for the duration of the exercise and put in direct contact with the Angolan authorities
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    Technologies utilisées pendant l’exercice Lula
    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
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    Ballon d’observation pendant l’exercice Lula
    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
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    Collaborateur de Total participant à l’exercice Lula
    Our experts at sea supervising the installation of a subsea dispersant injection system, which had been shipped from Norway to the Angolan base
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    Contrôle du puits à distance pendant l’exercice Lula
    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
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    Confinement et récupération durant l’exercice Lula
    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
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    Traitement par dispersion pendant l’exercice Lula
    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
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    Collaborateur de Total participant à l’exercice Lula
    Throughout the operations, physical and chemical analyses were regularly carried out to ensure the safety of participating staff
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    Exercice Lula
    Lula was a success, enabling Total to improve its offshore spill response capabilities and share its findings with the rest of the oil industry
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Our plans and resources for responding to an emergency

Pollution control plans have been developed to assist our teams in the event of an accidental oil spill.
Regularly reviewed and tested as part of drills, these plans are site-specific, ensuring an appropriate response to any emergency. They set out the procedures and special equipment to be used depending on whether the response strategy focuses on coastal protection, dispersion, containment and recovery or another technique.
Our teams also receive special training from approved organizations to ensure they are always ready to respond. Depending on the severity of the accident, we receive support from organizations specialized in pollution control, such as Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) and CEDREa French organization that conducts research into accidental water pollution. These organizations provide the expertise, resources and, if necessary, the equipment needed in all of our host regions.

FOST: Total's Response Base for Europe and West Africa

Marine firefighters demonstrate oil spill response equipment

In 1991, Total established an oil spill assistance and response base in southern France, near Marseille. The Fast Oil Spill Team (FOST), which includes some of the most able firefighters from the Marseille fire brigade, can respond immediately to emergencies off the coast of Europe and West Africa. FOST has initial response equipment that can be used alongside the site’s own resources in the event of an accidental spill. Backed by a high level of expertise, FOST is the ideal provider of know-how to local teams via technical support, 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: Lessons Learned

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.