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Environmental challenges


Total places the environment at the heart of its ambition of being a responsible company. In light of the specific nature of its activities, the Group’s operations pose risks for which Total develops structured management systems.

The Group has therefore identified its main environmental challenges:
  • preventing incident risks connected to major industrial events;
  • limiting its environmental footprint by managing energy consumption, emissions in natural environments (water, air, soil) and use of natural resources;
  • not to harm 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, which incorporates these challenges, by defining and monitoring the implementation of the One MAESTRO reference framework. This reference framework is 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 underneath as well as in the Environmental indicators section.

General policy and environmental targets


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. With regards to the environment, Total takes a constructive approach 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 Executive 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

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





The Group’s internal requirements state that the environmental management systems of its operated sites 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 71 sites were in conformity in 2018. Beyond these internal requirements, at the end of 2018, a total of 264 sites operated by the Group were ISO 14001 certified. In 2018, the Moho Nord site (Republic of the Congo) has been ISO 14001 certified.

All investment, divestment or acquisition projects which are submitted to the Executive Committee for approval are assessed and reviewed with regards to their risks and 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).

(1) Sites that emit more than 30 kt CO2e per year.

Preventing incident risks


To prevent incident risks and, in particular, major industrial events, Total carries out periodic risk assessments and implements adapted risk-management policies and measures.

The Group has management structures and systems that present similar requirements and expectations across all the entities. Total strives to minimize the potential impacts of its operations on people, the environment and property through a major technological risk management policy. This management draws on a shared approach in all segments that includes, on the one hand, risk identification and analysis, and on the other hand, the management of these risks.

This structured approach applies to all of the Group’s operated businesses exposed to these risks. In addition to its drilling and pipeline transport operations, the Group has at the end of 2018 195 sites and operating zones exposed to major technological risks, which could cause harm or damage to people, property and the environment, corresponding to:

  • all the offshore and onshore operating activities in Exploration & Production; and
  • the Seveso classified industrial sites (upper and lower threshold) and their equivalents outside the EU (excluding Exploration & Production).

This approach first sets out an analysis of the risks related to the Group’s industrial operations, on each site, based on incident scenarios for which the probability of occurrence and the severity of the consequences are assessed.

Second, based on these parameters, a prioritization matrix is used to determine whether further measures are needed in addition to compliance with the Group’s standards and local regulations. These mainly include preventive measures but can also include mitigation measures.

The management of major technological risks also hinges on:

  • staff training and raising awareness;
  • a coherent event reporting and indicators system;
  • systematic, structured serious event analysis, particularly to learn lessons in terms of design and operation;
  • regularly tested contingency plans and measures.


Loss of containment

In terms of monitoring indicators, the Group reports the number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 events as defined by the API and the IOGP. The Group set itself a loss of primary containment target of under 100 (Tier 1 and Tier 2) in 2018.

The target is slightly exceeded due to the inclusion of new entities in the reporting scope. In addition to the 103 Tier 1 and Tier 2 operational events indicated in the table below, the Group recorded four Tier 1 events and one Tier 2 event due to sabotage or theft in 2018.

Loss of primary containment(a) 2018 2017(b) 2016(b)
Loss of primary containment (Tier 1) 30 28 38
Loss of primary containment (Tier 2) 73 75 101
Loss of primary containment (Tier 1 and Ter 2) 103 103 139

(a) Tier 1 and Tier 2: indicator of the number of loss of primary containment events, with more or less significant consequences, as defined by the API 754 (for downstream) and IOGP 456 (for upstream) standards. Excluding acts of sabotage and theft.
(b) Excluding TEP Barnett in 2016 and 2017.


Accidental spills

In accordance with industry best practices, Total also monitors accidental liquid hydrocarbon spills of more than one barrel. Spills that exceed a predetermined severity threshold (in terms of volume spilled, toxicity of the product in question or sensitivity of the natural environment affected) are reviewed on a monthly basis and annual statistics are sent to the Group Performance Management Committee. All large spills are followed by corrective actions aimed at returning the environment to an acceptable state as quickly as possible. Due to their unpredictable nature, there is no quantitative target for accidental hydrocarbon spills. Nevertheless, changes in the number of spills are observed and analyzed.

Accidental hydrocarbon spills(a) 2018 2017(b) 2016
Number of hydrocarbon spills 74 62 73
Total volume of hydrocarbon spills (thousand of m3) 0.3 0.5 0.9

(a) Accidental spills with an environmental impact and of more than one barrel.
(b) In 2017, the indicator perimeter was updated to exclude spills due to sabotage by a third party.


Oil spill preparedness

In order to manage a major accidental spill efficiently, the Group implemented a global crisis management system that is primarily based on a dedicated organization and a crisis management center at the head office to enable the management of two simultaneous crises. As part of this process, Total regularly trains in crisis management on the basis of risk scenarios identified through analyses.

In particular, the Group has response plans and procedures in place in the event of a hydrocarbon leak or spill. For accidental spills that reach the water surface, oil spill contingency plans are regularly reviewed and tested during exercises. These plans are specific to each company or site and are adapted to their structure, activities and environment while complying with Group recommendations.

Oil spill preparedness 2018 2017 2016
Number of sites whose risk analysis identified at least one risk of major accidental pollution to surface water(a) 126 126 143
Proportion of those sites with an operational oil spill contingency plan 99% 91% 99%
Proportion of those sites that have performed at least one oil spill response exercise during the year 86%(b) 95% 89%

(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.

In the event of accidental pollution, 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.

Since 2014, subsea capping and subsea containment equipment that can be transported by air has been strategically positioned at different points of the world (South Africa, Brazil, Norway and Singapore) in order to provide solutions that are readily available in the event of oil or gas eruptions 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 the Congo, potentially covering the entire Gulf of Guinea region.

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, best practice 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 got involved in an initiative that seeks to systematically 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 2018, 95% of coastal marine terminals and 50% of offshore terminals had submitted their characteristics, thereby making it easier to assess the compatibility of ships with the ports of call. Additionally, since 2018, large Total terminals have used 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 completed by operators of 80% of operated-terminals by the end of 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) Programme, which holds and provides access to tanker and river barge inspection reports (Barge inspection Questionnaire – BIQ).

Limiting the environmental footprint


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 an active 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’s companies actively pursue a policy aimed at reducing emissions. After analyses have been conducted and when necessary, the sites 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.).

For new facilities developed by the Group, impact assessments are systematically carried out on these emissions and, if necessary, actions are 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) 2018 2017 2016
SO2 emissions (kt) 48 47 52
NOx emissions (kt) 69 68 76

(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.

NOX emissions, which are mainly concentrated in the Exploration & Production, are primarily located offshore and far away from the coast. Their impact on air quality is therefore considered to be minor.


Discharged air quality

In 2018, with regards to discharges to aquatic environments, all of the operated sites met the onshore discharge quality target set to restrict the impact on receiving environments.

  2018 2017 2016
Hydrocarbon content of offshore water discharges (in mg/l) 14.1 17.7 17.2
% of sites that meet the target for the quality of offshore discharges (30 mg/l) 96%(a) 100%(a) 100%(a)
Hydrocarbon content of onshore water discharges (in mg/l) 1.8 2.4 3.1
% of sites that meet the target for the quality of offshore discharges (15 mg/l) 100% 100% 100%

(a) Alwynn 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.

In 2018, the percentage of sites conforming to the targets for quality of offshore discharges decreased due to a site, acquired as part of the Mærsk Oil acquisition that exceed the target of the Group. The water discharge from this site is minor in terms of volume and represents less than 3% of the Group’s global offshore discharge.

The improvement in the quality of onshore water discharges in 2018 is linked to a better performance of the waste water treatment plants at Anvers, Donges and Normandie Refineries and to the expiry of the Mahakam license in Indonesia.



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

The Group’s approach to preventing and managing these types of pollution is based on four key principles:

  • 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 (current or future, if any) and the risk acceptability criteria recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Group.

Lastly, decommissioned Group facilities operated by Group entities or affiliates (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. Total created a policy of evaluation, treatment of environmental risks related to soil and groundwater and remediation of its sites at the end of their activity. In agreement with the authorities, the aim is to allow new operations to be set up once the future use of the land has been determined. Remediation operations are conducted by specialized entities created by the Group. At the end of 2018, 123 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 (point 8.7 of chapter 8 of the Registration Document 2018).


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, 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:

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

In order to identify the priority facilities, Total records the withdrawal and discharge of water on all of its sites and assesses these volumes on the basis of the current and future water stress indicators of the WRI(3) Aqueduct tool (currently 9.7%(4) of fresh water withdrawals take place in a global water stress area).

In addition, Total assesses water resources risk levels of priority facilities which are those that withdraw more than 500,000 m³ per year and are located in areas potentially exposed to water resource risks, using the Local Water Tool (LWT) for Oil & Gas from the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI). This tool also helps to guide the actions taken to mitigate any risks in order to make optimal use of water resources on these sites.

Globally, the sites operated by the Group are not particularly exposed to water risk. By the end of 2018, out of the 24 priority sites identified, the level of water risk was assessed on 16 priority Group sites (11 Refining & Chemicals, 3 Exploration & Production, 2 Gas, Renewables & Power). Following this assessment, two sites were identified as being at risk and were reported to the CDP. This analysis process is expected to be extended to other current priority sites, including eight additional sites that have been identified.

In 2018, the Group answered the CDP Water survey for the 2017 period and was graded A-. The main indicator used in this reporting is aggregated withdrawal.

Water-related indicator(a) 2018 2017 2016
Fresh water withdrawals excluding cooling water (million m3) 116 116 123

(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.



Total uses the ground surface that it needs to safely conduct its industrial operations and, in 2018, did not make extensive use of ground surfaces that could substantially conflict with various natural ecosystems or agriculture.

In 2018, the Group introduced a specific selection process concerning palm oil suppliers to ensure that 100% of the oils purchased by Total for La Mède meet the sustainability criteria set by the European Union (according to a mass balance system required by the European Union(5)) and come from a limited number of suppliers. This certification imposes criteria of sustainability and traceability of the oils (carbon footprint, non-deforestation, agricultural practices that preserve biodiversity, respect for Human Rights) used specifically for sustainable biofuels. Those criteria apply to the entire production and distribution chain of the sustainable biofuels and are regularly updated. To be certified, sustainable biofuels must lead to a GHG emissions reduction from well to wheel of minimum 50% compared to fossil fuels. As at December 31, 2018, supplies of palm oil to La Mède had not yet begun.

(5) cf. Article 18 (1) of Directive 2009/28/EC of 23 April 2009 on promoting the use of energy from renewable sources.

Not to harm biodiversity and ecosystems during projects and operations


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 during its projects and operations. 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 6 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 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, 2017.

  • Achievement: This commitment is respected. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Total made the commitment not to carry out any exploration activity in the Virunga National Park, partly located in Block III of the Graben Albertine. Total is no longer present in this license since January 2019.


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 operated production sites located in the most sensitive protected areas, corresponding to the UICN I to IV or 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 shall be implemented in the short term in Italy (Tempa Rossa project) or the medium term, for example, in Uganda (Tilenga project), Tanzania (EACOP project) and Papua New Guinea (Papua LNG project).


Commitment n°4

Total commits to implement, as part of Total Foundation, a global program for the preservation of forests, mangroves and wetlands.

  • Achievement: For more information on the preservation and restoration of forests, refer to the “Societal impact and local development” section which presents the Total Foundation program, for which the Fondation d’entreprise Total in France is primarily responsible.


Commitment n°5

Total develops innovative tools and methods for the analysis and modeling of biodiversity data collected as part of its baseline studies and promotes their sharing with the scientific community.

  • Achievement: In order to share the data collected by the Group during its baseline studies, a cooperation program with Oxford University (Long Term Ecology Laboratory), in partnership with Equinor, was launched in 2018 to develop a marine biodiversity sensitivity screening tool called LEFT Marine (Local Ecological Footprint Tool); this tool shall be made available to the public so that it can be used by third parties.


Commitment n°6

Total promotes employee awareness of biodiversity issues through actions that promote biodiversity at its office buildings.

  • Achievement: In order to raise awareness of biodiversity among employees, the Group’s environmental communication plan comprises a series of actions that are aimed at employees at its head-office, office and sites, and across all segments. In 2018, a brochure on the subject of biodiversity, which presented the new Act4Nature commitments and the Group’s biodiversity actions, was released and explained through a biodiversity MOOC (massive open online course) on the Group’s intranet.

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

Between 2017 and 2020, Total is rolling out a range of actions that form part of the circular economy and are based on five commitments to different areas of the circular economy:
  • limit the production of waste and favor its valorization,
  • develop polymers that contain up to 50% recycled plastic,
  • install solar panels on 5,000 service stations,
  • 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.
 What has been accomplished:

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 (sorting and energy valorization) the majority of the Group’s waste. In 2018, the Group processed 573 kt of waste (all modes of management combined). In the end, the Group’s target of recovering more than 50% of its waste is achieved:

Waste treatment process 2018 2017 2016
Recycling and/or valorization(a) 57% 59% 58%
Landfill 18% 13% 18%
Others (incineration, biotreatment, etc.) 25% 28% 24%

(a) The valorization percentages of 2017 and 2018 exclude excavated soil in the scope of 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. 2017 data was restated to take into account this new calculation mode. Refer to the “Reporting scopes and methodology” section for the scope of reporting.

Since 2017, 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.

At end of 2018, the program has been deployed at all polymer site in the Refining & Chemicals segment.

The Group is also committed to develop solutions to help end plastic waste in the environment, especially in oceans, within the Alliance to End Plastic Waste of which Total is a founding member.




Safety, Health, Environment, Quality Charter

Safety, Health, Environment, Quality Charter

Licences in Arctic

List of licences in Arctic area