During his visit to the CSTJF R&D center in southern France, Total's Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanné looked back at the Lacq site’s successful transformation.
Commercial operation of the Lacq gas field in southern France ended on October 15, 2013 . Although the gas field produced some 33 million cubic meters of gas and 5,000 metric tons of sulfur per day in the 1970s, its depletion was inevitable, and Total had always been highly attentive to what would become of the site afterwards. Today, and for years to come, Lacq has become an innovative and vibrant industrial center –– the exact opposite of an industrial wasteland.
Total began planning for the post-gas period back in the 1960s, through active involvement in and support for the regional economy. Through Total Développement Régional (TDR), the Group has facilitated the arrival of hundreds of companies over the years in Lacq-Orthez.
To start, this has involved providing energy and raw materials across the industrial area. Total decided to stop selling gas from Lacq in 2013, even though 3% of the field’s reserves remained. Under the Lacq Cluster Chimie 2030 (LCC30) project, a new gas processing plant was built, to supply local industries (like Arkema and Abengoa) with energy and sulfur-based raw materials over the next 30 years. This ensured sustained viability for the site and its 8,000 jobs. Proof of the successful reconversion is that Lacq today stands as France's only industrial area to have maintained the same employment level over the last 30 years.
A further step forward came with the development of a carbon industry in southwestern France following discussions launched in 2009 between TDR and Japan-based Toray, one of the world's largest carbon fiber manufacturers. A plant opened at Lacq in 2014 to produce polyacrylonitrile (PAN), a carbon fiber precursor for which global demand is rising by 15% per year.
On the environmental front, full measures were taken to minimize disturbance. By 2018, all the sites previously used for gas-field operations will have been fully remediated, opening the way to development of new activities.