Water: Preserving a Vital Resource

Panoramic view of the Grandpuits refinery Vue générale de la raffinerie de Grandpuits

Water is a vital resource for both life and our operations. For this reason, our objective is to optimize our water use in order to reduce our water withdrawals and consumption and preserve water quality throughout our production chain. To this end and as part of our drive for continuous improvement, we are investing in water knowledge and management.

Why it matters

Fresh water is an essential resource for both human development and the conservation of ecosystems. But the number of water risk regions, where water quality is poor or water is scarce, is increasing. This trend could be exacerbated by climate change.

To ensure sustainable and effective water management, regulations are becoming increasingly strict. Water issues are particularly important for Total because water is a vital resource for our oil and gas operations and the development of renewable energies. We are therefore committed to preserving water and are constantly looking for ways to improve our facilities' performance.

Water: Our Day-to-Day Approach and Guiding Principles

Our goal is very clear: we want to limit as much as possible the impact of our activities on water resources everywhere we operate, across the life cycle of our facilities and products.

To achieve this, our approach is part of a long-term strategy that is formalized in our Safety Health Environment Quality Charter. We implement this strategy – which is designed to avoid and limit water risks – throughout the lifespan of our projects to minimize the impact of our operations on water.

Our method involves:

  • Taking regional sensitivities into account: In order to identify in advance the facilities most affected by the availability of fresh water, we track and assess water withdrawals and discharges at all of our sites. Before implementing new projects, we use decision support tools to obtain a comprehensive overview of water stress regions.

Local Water Tool: Optimized Management of Our Activities in Water Risk Regions

We worked together with IPIECA and the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) to develop the Local Water Tool (LWT). This assessment tool collects vast amounts of information on our water consumption and adds it to the water and health datasets for the relevant regions. The result is precise, local mapping of the risks and impacts of our sites in water risk regions. Thanks to the LWT, we can continue to hone our water optimization efforts.

  • Managing water from the first to the very last day of a project: We systematically integrate water risk and impact management into our Environmental Management System (EMS) at every stage of our projects, right up until our facilities are dismantled.
  • Reporting: We report to our stakeholders on our water performance, both qualitatively and quantitatively. We aim to ensure that all our sites comply with the requirements set out in local regulations. When these regulations are lacking or insufficient, we put in place our own standards.

Visit our Sustainable Performance website for further information.

Investing in research to improve our water knowledge and management

decrease in fresh water withdrawals between 2012 and 2017

We are stepping up our research and development, particularly in an effort to improve our water treatment techniques. For example, in our Exploration & Production operations, we are looking at the best techniques for reinjecting produced water into the reservoir from which it was extracted. This solution can also be used to maintain reservoir pressure, thereby facilitating oil recovery.

Total believes that openness and dialogue are key to fostering innovation within the Group. That’s why we support ambitious open innovation projects, like the now flourishing start-up Nano H2O, which we helped get off the ground. Nano H2O manufactures thin-film nanocomposite membranes for effective, low-energy water purification. This technology could be used to improve the quality of produced water.

BIOMEM: An Ultra-High-Performance Biological Treatment Process for Produced Water

Produced water increases in volume as an oil field matures, making water treatment a major challenge. To protect biodiversity around our sites and stay on top of regulatory changes, our R&D teams develop cutting-edge technologies, such as BIOMEM, a highly innovative biological treatment process that eliminates the toxicity of produced water by using microorganisms. This more cost-effective technology can be applied at all of our onshore and offshore sites and will be rolled out for the first time at an industrial facility in 2018.