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Environmental challenges

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Total places the environment at the heart of its ambition of being a responsible company. The specificities of the Group’s activities incur environmental risks, for which Total has developed a structured management policy.

The Group has therefore identified its main environmental challenges:
  • preventing risks of accidental pollution;
  • limiting its environmental footprint by managing energy consumption, emissions in natural environments (water, air, soil) and use of natural resources;
  • managing impacts to biodiversity and ecosystems during projects and operations especially when situated in sensitive natural environments;
  • limiting its production of residual waste by supporting the circular economy.

To address its challenges, Total relies on the HSE division, which is part of the People & Social Responsibility division, whose President is a member of the Executive Committee. In particular, the HSE division is tasked with defining the HSE strategy and policies of the Group in line with the business challenges and the One Total Company project.

The HSE division manages in an integrated manner the environmental, security, health and societal challenges associated with the Group’s operations. It coordinates the implementation of the Group’s Health, Safety, Environment and Quality charter by defining and monitoring the implementation of the One MAESTRO reference framework. This reference framework and the corresponding audits are described in the “People’s health and safety” section.

Environmental indicators have been monitored for many years in order to constantly adapt the Group’s environmental protection measures which are presented in this section.

General policy and environmental targets

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In keeping with its Safety Health Environment Quality charter, Total considers respect for the environment to be a priority. All employees, at every level, must do their utmost to protect the environment as they go about their work. Total strives to control its energy consumption, its emissions in natural environments (water, air, soil), its residual waste production, its use of natural resources and its impact on biodiversity. Total takes a constructive approach on this topic that is based on transparency and dialogue when communicating with its stakeholders and third parties.

To this end, the HSE division and the HSE departments within the Group’s entities seek to ensure both applicable local regulations and internal requirements resulting from the Safety Health Environment Quality Charter and the Group’s additional commitments are respected. Group steering bodies, led by the HSE division, are tasked with:

  • monitoring Total’s environmental performance, which is reviewed annually by the Audit Committee, for which multi-annual improvement targets are set;
  • handling, in conjunction with the business segments, the various environment-related subjects of which they are in charge; and
  • promoting the internal standards to be applied by the Group’s operational entities.

Total’s environmental targets(a)

Environment targets


Biodiversity commitments

(a) Refer to the “climate” section for Total’s climate targets


The Group’s internal requirements state that the environmental management systems of the sites operated by the Group that are important for the environment(1) must be ISO 14001 certified within two years of start-up of operations or acquisition: 100% of these 77 sites were compliant in 2019. Beyond these internal requirements, at the end of 2019, a total of 281 sites operated by the Group were ISO 14001 certified. In 2019, 7 sites were newly ISO 14001 certified. 

The internal rules stipulate that all projects of investment, divestment or acquisition submitted to the Risk committee of the Group must be assessed and reviewed with regards to their risks and potential impact, particularly environmental, before the final investment decision is made.

Total seeks to ensure that all employees share its environmental protection requirements. Employees receive training in the required skills. Total also raises employee awareness through internal communication campaigns (e.g., in-house magazines, intranet, posters). The 2019 World Environment Day focused on good practices that protect biodiversity on the Group’s sites. To mark the occasion, instructive materials were developed to teach employees more about biodiversity.

(1) Sites that emit more than 30 kt CO2 per year.

Preventing risks of accidental pollution

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To prevent incident risks and, in particular, major spills that could reach the environment, Total implements appropriate policies of risk management. Point “preventing the occurrence of major industrial accidents” in the “personal health and safety challenges” section describes the management measures covering the design and construction of facilities, changes to existing facilities, operations and the control of the integrity of facilities. It also describes the measures taken to control the integrity of facilities over time.

For its sea and river shipment requirements, Total only charters ships and barges that meet the highest international standards. The Group has an internal policy that lays down the process and criteria by which ships and barges are selected (known as vetting). These criteria are based, in particular, on the regulations, the best practices and recommendations of the OCIMF(2) and, in Europe, on the European Barge Inspection Scheme (EBIS). Tankers and barges are vetted by a single centralized Group entity. The average age of the Group Shipping division’s time-chartered fleet is approximately six years.

With regard to operated marine terminals, the Group follows an initiative that seeks to record their physical characteristics and store this data in a global database that forms part of the Marine Terminal Information System (MTIS) of the OCIMF. At the end of 2019, 95% of coastal and offshore marine terminals had submitted their characteristics, thereby making it easier to assess the compatibility of ships with the ports of call. Additionally, Total encourages all maritime terminals to use the Marine Terminal Management Self-Assessment (MTMSA), the framework recommended by the industry for the self-assessment of terminals and the continuous improvement of the safety of product transfers. A training course on ship/shore interface management (SSSCL – Ship Shore Safety Check List) and cargo transfer operations, developed by the Group in 2016, had been completed by operators of 80% of operated-terminals by the end of 2019.

In order to manage a major accidental spill efficiently, Total implemented a global crisis management system that is described in the “personal health and safety challenges” section.

For the sites operated by the Group exposed to the risk of accidental spills that reach the surface water, this system is supplemented by the requirements of the One MAESTRO reference framework. These requirements demand that the oil spill contingency plans be regularly reviewed and tested in exercises. These plans are specific to each site and are adapted to their structure, activities and environment while complying with Group recommendations.

The Group companies can call on in-house human and material resources (Fast Oil Spill Team, FOST) and benefit from assistance agreements with the main third-party organizations specialized in the management of hydrocarbon spills.

For the oil and gas exploration & production activities, since 2014, subsea capping and subsea containment equipment that can be transported by air has been strategically positioned at various points of the world (South Africa, Brazil, Norway and Singapore). This equipment provides solutions that are readily available in the event of oil or gas blowout in deep offshore drilling operations. From these locations, the equipment can benefit Total’s operations worldwide. This equipment was developed by a group of nine oil companies, including Total, and is managed by Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL), a cooperative dedicated to the response to marine pollution by hydrocarbons.

Total has also designed and developed its own capping system (“Subsea Emergency Response System”) to stop potential eruptions in drilling or production operations as quickly as possible. Since 2015, equipment has been installed in Angola, then the Republic of Congo, potentially covering the entire Gulf of Guinea region. In March 2019, one of these pieces of equipment was deployed and tested at more than 1,200 m water depth during a large-scale exercise in Nigeria.


Oil spill preparedness

Oil spill preparedness 2019 2018 2017
Number of sites whose risk analysis identified at least one risk
of major accidental pollution to surface water(a)
128 126 126
Proportion of those sites with an operational oil spill contingency plan 100% 99% 91%
Proportion of those sites that have performed at least one oil spill
response exercise during the year
91% 86%(b) 95%

(a) The variation of the number of sites between 2016 and 2018 is due to perimeter variation.
(b) Decrease in 2018 compared to 2017 corresponds mainly to two subsidiaries where equipment was being refurbished in 2018.

(2) OCIMF (Oil Companies International Marine Forum): An industry forum including the leading worldwide oil companies. This organization manages, in particular, the Ship Inspection Report (SIRE) Program, which holds and provides access to tanker and river barge inspection reports (Barge inspection Questionnaire – BIQ).


Accidental hydrocarbon spills

In accordance with industry best practices, Total monitors accidental liquid hydrocarbon spills of more than one barrel. Spills that exceed a predetermined severity threshold are reviewed on a monthly basis and annual statistics are sent to the Group Performance Management Committee. All spills are followed by corrective actions aimed at returning the environment to an acceptable state as quickly as possible.

Accidental liquid hydrocarbon spills of a volume or more than one barrel that affected the environment, excluding sabotage 2019 2018 2017
Number of spills 57 74 62
Total volume of spills (thousands of m3) 1.2 0.3 0.5

In February 2019, 900 m3 of hydrocarbons leakage from the Île-de-France pipeline (PLIF) in Autouillet, which was the largest oil and gas spill impacting the environment in 2019. This spill polluted about four hectares of soil and watercourses. All the banks were cleaned, traces of oil were removed from the watercourses, 800 m3 of a mix of water and oil were disposed of, 49,000 m3 of earth were excavated and the groundwater was checked for signs of impacts. This process was monitored by more than 3,000 laboratory analyses of the environment (water, air, soil). In 2020, a further 3,000 m3 of earth will be excavated and disposed of, and the ground and surface water will continue to be monitored.

Limiting the environmental footprint

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Wherever Total conducts its business, it makes sure that it complies with applicable laws and regulations, which the Group complements with specific requirements and commitments when necessary. Total implements a policy of avoiding, reducing, managing and monitoring the environmental footprint of its operations. As part of this policy, emissions are identified and quantified by environment (water, air and soil) so that appropriate measures can be taken to better control them.


Water, air

The Group’s operations generate emissions into the atmosphere from combustion plants and the various conversion processes and discharges into wastewater. In addition to complying with applicable legislation, the Group drew up a guide that the Group subsidiaries can use to limit the quantities discharged. More particularly, the Group set itself targets for the reduction in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and committed to limiting its hydrocarbons discharges in water. After analyses have been conducted, the exposed sites can introduce various reduction systems that include organizational measures (such as using predictive models to control peaks in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions based on weather forecast data and the improvement of combustion processes management, etc.) and technical measures (wastewater treatment plants, using low NOX burners and electrostatic scrubbers, etc.). Today, all the refineries owned exclusively by the Group have this type of system.

For new facilities developed by the Group, the internal rules require impact assessments to be carried out on these emissions and, if necessary, actions must be taken to limit their impact.


Chronic emissions into the atmosphere

In 2010, SO2 emissions were 99 kt. The Group set itself the target of not exceeding 49.5 kt by 2020; it has met this target since 2017.

Chronic emissions into the atmosphere(a) 2019 2018 2017
SO2 emissions (kt) 39 48 47
NOx emissions (kt) 72 66 69

(a) Refer to our “Reporting scopes and methodology” section for the scope of reporting.

SO2 emissions that are likely to cause acid rain are regularly checked and reduced. The decrease in these emissions in 2019 is mainly due to a decrease in activity at refining units and the implementation of a more stringent policy concerning acid gas flaring by the Exploration & Production segment in the United Arab Emirates.

NOx emissions mainly concern hydrocarbon exploration and production activities and are primarily located offshore and far away from the coast. Their impact on air quality is therefore considered to be minor. The increase in 2019 is mainly due to an increase in offshore drilling and logistics activities.


Discharged water quality


Discharged water quality 2019 2018 2017
Hydrocarbon content of offshore water discharges (in mg/l) 13.0 14.1 17.7
% of sites that meet the target for the quality
of offshore discharges (30 mg/l)
100%(a) 96%(a) 100%(a)
Hydrocarbon content of onshore water discharges (in mg/l) 1.7 1.8 2.4
% of sites that meet the target for the quality
of offshore discharges (15 mg/l)
100% 100% 100%

(a) Alwyn site (United Kingdom) excluded, as its produced water discharges only occur during the maintenance periods of the water reinjection system and are subject to a specific regulatory authorization.



The risks of soil pollution related to Total’s operations come mainly from accidental spills and waste storage.

The Group has drawn up a guide that the subsidiaries can use to prevent and contain this pollution. The guide recommends an approach based on four pillars:

  • preventing leaks, by implementing, as far as possible, industry best practices in engineering, operations and transport;
  • carrying out maintenance at appropriate frequency to minimize the risk of leaks;
  • overall monitoring of the environment to identify any soil and groundwater pollution; and
  • managing any pollution from previous activities by means of containment and reduction or elimination operations.

In addition, a Group directive defines the following minimum requirements:

  • systematic identification of each site’s environmental and health impacts related to possible soil and groundwater contamination;
  • assessment of soil and groundwater contamination based on various factors (extent of pollution inside or outside the site’s boundaries, nature and concentrations of pollutants, presence of a vector that could allow the pollution to migrate, use of the land and groundwater in and around the site); and
  • management of health or environmental impacts identified based on the use of the site.

Lastly, decommissioned facilities operated by the Group (i.e., chemical plants, service stations, mud pits or lagoons resulting from hydrocarbon extraction operations, wasteland on the site of decommissioned refinery units, etc.) impact the landscape and may, despite all the precautions taken, be sources of chronic or accidental pollution. In addition to the appropriate management of waste produced by the dismantling and securing of sites, Total has created a policy to evaluate and manage the risks related to soil and groundwater pollution. For sites at the end of their life cycle, management of pollution takes into account regulatory obligations as well as the aim of the Group to retain control over the use of these sites, favoring redevelopment its activities (solar, reforestation, etc.) Remediation operations are conducted by specialized entities created by the Group. At the end of 2019, 114 industrial sites that were no longer in operation (excluding service stations) were in the process of remediation.

The Group’s provisions for the protection of the environment and site remediation are detailed in Note 12 to the Consolidated Financial Statements (refer to point 8.7 of chapter 8 of the Universal Registration Document).


Sustainable use of resources

Fresh water

The Group’s activities, mainly those of Refining & Chemicals, and to a lesser extent those of the Exploration & Production and the Integrated Gas, Renewables & Power segments, may potentially have an impact on, as well as be dependent of, water resources. This is especially true when an activity is located in a water resources sensitive environment.

Fully aware of these challenges, Total implements the following water risk management actions:

  • monitor water withdrawals to identify priority sensitive sites and then carry out a risk assessment;
  • improve the water resources management depending on identified needs, by adapting the priority sites’ environmental management system.

In order to identify its facilities exposed to the risk of water stress, Total records the withdrawal and discharge of water on all of its operated sites for this indicator and assesses these volumes on the basis of the current and future water stress indicators of the WRI(3) Aqueduct tool. Currently, 9.3%(4) of freshwater withdrawals take place in a global water stress area. For the sites situated in these areas and that withdraw more than 500,000 m3 per year, Total assesses water resources risk levels using, in particular, the Local Water Tool (LWT) for Oil & Gas from the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI). This tool also helps guide the actions taken to mitigate the risks and to make optimal use of water resources on the sites when necessary.

This risk assessment establishes that the activities of the sites operated by the Group only expose the other users of the water to a relatively low risk of water stress. Following this assessment, two sites were identified in 2019 as being at risk and were reported to the CDP(5): the Grandpuits and Normandy refineries. The risk concerns the supply of water to these sites, which could be cut in order to maintain access to water for priority users. In 2020, the analysis process is expected to be extended to four additional sites.

In 2019, the Group answered the CDP Water survey for the 2018 period and was, for the third consecutive year, graded A-. The main indicator used in this reporting is fresh water withdrawal.

Water-related indicator(a) 2019 2018 2018
Fresh water withdrawals excluding cooling water (million m3) 115 116 116

(a) Refer to the “Reporting scopes and methodology” section for the scope of reporting.

(3) World Resources Institute.
(4) According to CDP Water 2018 definition.
 Non-profit organization that offers environmental reporting services for investors, enterprises, city authorities, States and regional authorities.



Total uses the ground surface that it needs to safely conduct its industrial operations and, in 2019, did not make extensive use of ground surfaces that could substantially conflict with various natural ecosystems or agriculture.

Worldwide, biofuels used by the Group meet sustainability requirements as per regulations. Total produces and markets biofuels partly produced from agricultural raw materials. All the biofuels incorporated by the Group in Europe are certified as sustainable ISCC EU type certification according to the criteria required by the European Union. This certification imposes criteria of sustainability and traceability of the oils (carbon footprint, non-deforestation, proper soil use, respect for Human Rights). Those criteria apply to the entire production and distribution chain of the sustainable biofuels and were strengthened in 2019 as part of the revision of the Directive on renewable energy in transport. In particular, the European Union caps the use of agriculture raw materials in biofuels to limit changes in land use.

In July 2019, Total started up the La Mède biorefinery in France that is expected to produce biofuels from 60-70% of vegetable oils (rape, palm, etc.) and 30-40% of waste and residues. Total selects a limited number of suppliers of palm oil and completes the certification with a specific reinforced control system of sustainability and the respect of human rights.

Managing impacts to biodiversity and ecosystems during projects and operations

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Total’s activities may potentially be located in sensitive natural environments.

The Group is fully aware of this challenge and takes biodiversity and ecosystems into account in its reference frameworks, the founding element of which is its Safety Health Environment Quality charter, as well as in its projects and operations. Thus, for new facilities developed by the Group, internal rules require that impact assessment taking into account biodiversity and ecosystems be carried out and that action be taken if necessary. For existing facilities, the Group recommends that its subsidiaries apply the avoid – reduce – restore – compensate approach.

In July 2018, and within the framework of the Act4Nature initiative, the Group made 16 biodiversity commitments to make this policy more tangible. The 16 commitments are described in the biodiversity brochure. There are 10 general commitments common to all of the signatory companies and an additional six commitments specific to Total, some of which existed before the initiative. These differentiate the Group from its competitors.

The commitments are currently being implemented. A review of the actions that have already been performed on the first three priority commitments is provided below.


Total’s commitments

Commitment n°1

The Group extended its commitment not to engage in oil and gas exploration or extraction operations at natural sites included on the UNESCO World Heritage List of December 31, 2018.

  • Achievement: This commitment is respected.


Commitment n°2

Total does not conduct any oil exploration activities in oil fields under sea ice in the Arctic.


Commitment n°3

Total develops biodiversity action plans for operated production sites located in the most sensitive protected areas.

  • Achievements: A biodiversity action plan has been developed for all the operated production sites located in the most sensitive protected areas, corresponding to the UICN I to IV and Ramsar categories. Consequently, the biodiversity action plan developed in 2015 for Djeno in the Republic of the Congo is still being implemented, particularly with regards to the ecosystem services of Lagune de la Loubie. Other action plans are deployed in Italy (Tempa Rossa project) and in Mozambique (Mozambique LNG project) or are being prepared but not yet deployed in Uganda (Tilenga project), Tanzania (EACOP project) and Papua New Guinea (Papua LNG project).


In order to continue sharing its biodiversity data and tools with the scientific community, the Group joined the international Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the French hub of which is the French National Natural History Museum. The first data loaded concerns the Group’s projects in Angola(6). Data loading will continue in 2020 with, for example French, Guiana. Total is the first major to join GBIF.

In addition, the collaboration program with the University of Oxford in United Kingdom (Long Term Ecology Laboratory), in partnership with Equinor, has continued. Initiated in 2018, the aim of this program is to develop a tool for screening of marine biodiversity sensitivities. Its simplified version is online(7) and is accessible to the public. A more complete version, initiated in 2019, is scheduled for the end of 2020.

Finally, in 2019, communication actions were carried out in order to raise awareness of biodiversity among Group employees. The United Nations World Environment Day was celebrated on the theme of Biodiversity. On this occasion, the Act4Nature commitments and the Group’s Biodiversity actions were presented. Around 30 employees from the headquarter offices also benefited from training provided by the French National Natural History Museum following this event. In addition, around 350 employees were made aware of the Group’s commitments during the Group’s One HSE seminar.

(6) 324 data on the initial state of the seabed and the observation of marine mammals.
(7) LEFT Marine (Local Ecological Footprint Tool).

Promoting a better use of natural resources by supporting the circular economy

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Between 2017 and 2020, Total is rolling out a range of actions that includes targets for progress in various areas:
  • valorize more than 50% of the waste produced by the sites operated by the Group;
  • improve by an average of 1% per year the energy efficiency of the Group’s operated industrial facilities;
  • incorporate a criterion dedicated to the circular economy into the Company’s purchases.
Additionally, Total has set itself the target of:
  • producing 30% of its polymers from recycled materials by 2030 (the commitment published in 2018 to develop polymers comprising more than 50% of recycled plastics was achieved in 2019);
  • installing solar panels on 5,000 service stations.
What has been accomplished:
  • more than 50% of the waste produced by the sites operated by the Group was valorized in 2019;
  • the Group reached its energy efficiency target in 2017 (refer to the “Climate section” - “Targets and metrics to measure climate related risks and opportunities”);
  • production of 20,000 tons of recycled polypropylene per year and, further to the conclusive industrial-scale tests, creation and marketing of 15 grades of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene compounds containing up to 50% of recycled materials;
  • by the end of 2019, solar panels had been installed on 1,436 service stations.

With regards to food waste and food poverty, the Group’s activities pertaining to food distribution are minor and are therefore not directly affected by these issues.

Waste prevention and management

Regarding waste in particular, a Group directive lays down a number of minimum waste-management requirements, which limit the potential risks associated with the improper management of waste. Waste management is carried out in four basic stages: waste identification (technical and regulatory); waste storage (soil protection and discharge management); waste traceability, from production through to disposal (e.g., notes, logs, statements); and waste treatment, with technical and regulatory knowledge of the relevant processes, under the site’s responsibility.

The Group’s companies are also focused on controlling the waste produced on all of the operated sites, at every stage in their operations. This approach is based on the following four principles, listed in decreasing order of priority:

  • reducing waste at source by designing products and processes that generate as little waste as possible, as well as minimizing the quantity of waste produced by the Group’s operations;
  • reusing products for a similar purpose in order to prevent them from becoming waste;
  • recycling residual waste; and
  • recovering energy, wherever possible, from non-recycled products.

Total deploys programs on its operated sites to valorize the majority of the Group’s waste. In 2019, the active sites operated by the Group generated 662kt of waste of which 288kt of hazardous waste. The Group’s target is to valorize more than 50% of the waste produced by these sites. This target was achieved:

Waste treatment processes(a) 2019(c) 2018 2017
Valorization (recycling, material or energy valorization)(b) 65% 57% 59%
Landfill 15% 18% 13%
Others (incineration without valorization, biotreatment without valorization, etc.) 20% 25% 28%

(a) Excluding drilling cuttings, excluding sites that have ceased operations and are in the process of being remediated.
 The valorization percentages of 2017 and 2018 exclude excavated soil in the scope of the Port Arthur Ethan Cracker project. It was exceptional non-hazardous waste associated with the construction of a new installation which was used as soil cover in a landfill. Refer to the “Reporting scopes and methodology” section for the scope of reporting.
 The tonnages of waste from 10 Hutchinson sites were estimated in 2019 based on their 2018 reporting. Waste from those 10 sites represented around 1% of the Group’s total tonnage in 2018.

The increase in the valorization percentage in 2019 is mainly due to the valorization, at the biological treatment center, of 83kt of polluted soil resulting from remediation work related to the incident on the Île-de-France pipeline. The Group’s valorization percentage would have been 60% without this soil.

Since 2015, all the Refining & Chemicals segment’s plastic production sites worldwide are participating in the CleanSweep® program, which aims to achieve zero loss of plastic pellets in handling operations. CleanSweep® is an international program that aims to avoid losses of plastic pellets during handling operations by the players in the plastics industry, so that they are not disseminated into the aquatic environment. Since 2018, the program has been deployed at all polymer sites in the Refining & Chemicals segment.

Additionally, Total is a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, launched in 2019, which brings together 42 companies in the plastics and consumer goods value chain. The Alliance’s objective is to finance, to the extent of $1.5 billion over five years, the development of solutions for the reduction and treatment (reuse, recycling and recovery) of used plastics in the environment, particularly in the oceans.


Developing polymers from recycled plastics

Total has set itself the target of producing 30% of its polymers from recycled materials by 2030. The Group is working to achieve this goal by using all types of recycling to produce high-performance recycled polymers:

  • in the field of mechanical recycling, in 2019 the Group acquired Synova, France’s leading producer of high-performance recycled polypropylene for the automotive industry. At the same time, Total announced its decision to double Synova’s production capacity to about 40,000 tons of recycled polypropylene per year by 2021;
  • Total has joined forces with the plastic recycling technology provider Recycling Technologies, Nestlé and Mars, both world leaders in the food processing sector, to develop an innovative chemical recycling process on an industrial scale in France. This unique consortium of world leaders in the packaging value chain is studying the technical and economic feasibility of recycling complex food-grade plastic waste, such as small and soft packaging, or multi-layer packaging. Today, these products are considered to be non-recyclable and are incinerated or disposed of on landfill sites;
  • Total produces circular compounds that contain at least 50% of recycled materials and possess the same properties as virgin polymers. More than 15 grades of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene compounds containing up to 50% of recycled materials are already marketed.

The Group is also working on the diversification of its supply sources, notably biosourced. Total is one of the world leaders in bioplastics. In Thailand, Total Corbion PLA, 50% owned by Total, operates a plant with a capacity of 75,000 tons per year of PLA, a recycled and 100% biodegradable bioplastic. The operational launch was in 2019.