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Total to spend €500m on converting Grandpuits refinery to biofuels and bioplastics

24 September 2020

French energy major Total announced on September 24 that it will spend €500m (£456m) to convert its Grandpuits refinery into a zero-crude platform by 2024. The platform will focus on four new industrial activities: production of renewable diesel primarily intended for the aviation industry, production of bioplastics, plastics recycling, and operation of two photovoltaic solar power plants.

Grandpuits refinery - Image: Total
Grandpuits refinery - Image: Total

In a statement, Total said that crude refining would be discontinued in the first quarter of 2021 and storage of petroleum products will end in late 2023. The company added that operations at service stations and airports in the Greater Paris region will not be affected and would instead be supplied by the refineries at Donges – currently undergoing a €450 million (£411m) modernisation – and Normandy.

Total’s decision to end oil refining at Grandpuits came after an audit conducted over several months on the 161-mile (260km) long Pipeline d'Ile-de-France (PLIF) which connects Grandpuits with Le Havre port on France’s north west coast.

Grandpuits was forced to shut down for more than five months in 2019 following a leak from the PLIF, following an earlier leak near Le Havre in 2014. With the approval of government officials, the PLIF’s maximum working pressure was reduced to ensure safe operation. As a result, the refinery could operate at only 70% of its capacity, threatening its long-term financial viability, Total said. The audit found that normal operations at the refinery could be restored only by replacing the PLIF, at a cost of nearly €600 million (£548m).

“With the industrial repurposing of the Grandpuits refinery into a zero-crude platform focused on energies of the future connected with biomass and the circular economy, Total is demonstrating its commitment to the energy transition and reaffirming its ambition to achieve carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050,” says Bernard Pinatel, President of Total Refining & Chemicals.

Of the 400 jobs at the Grandpuits platform and its associated Gargenville depot, 250 will be maintained after the conversion. Furthermore, 15 additional jobs will be created on the Grandpuits site in a packaging unit connected to the bioplastics unit.

Three new industrial units

As part of Total’s plans for the Grandpuits refinery, the company will construct a renewable diesel unit, primarily producing for the aviation industry. The new unit, to be commissioned in 2024, will be able to process 400,000 tonnes per year, with potential annual production of 170,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel, 120,000 tons of renewable diesel, and 50,000 tonnes of renewable naphtha, used to produce bioplastics.

Total Corbion PLA, a 50/50 joint venture between Total and Corbion, will be constructing Europe’s first PLA manufacturing plant. Entirely produced from sugar instead of oil, PLA is a bioplastic that is biodegradable and recyclable. The market for PLA is growing up to 15% annually. Demand is rising fast, particularly in the markets for film wrap and rigid packaging and in numerous industrial applications.

France’s first chemical recycling plant will also be constructed with Plastic Energy (Total 60%, Plastic Energy 40%). Based on a new innovative recycling technology, this plant will convert plastic wastes into a liquid called TACOIL through a pyrolysis melting process. This TACOIL will then be used as feedstock for the production of polymers with identical properties to virgin polymers.

Lastly, Total will be building two photovoltaic solar plants, one with capacity of 28 MWp (at the Grandpuits site) and the other with capacity of 24 MWp (at the Gargenville site), which will contribute to Total’s ambition to provide green electricity to all its industrial sites in Europe. The plants will be built and operated by Total Quadran, a wholly-owned Total affiliate that specialises in renewable energy development and production in France.

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