Total: Disrupting carbon emissions

The Group is fully committed to a transition to clean sources of energy, with the aim of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050

Big Zero Report 2023

“We can’t carry on like this. It’s a question of sustainability, as much for our business as for the world at large,” says Jean-Pierre Dath, R&D program manager for Total, who has worked for the company for more than 30 years.

“I didn’t think that we would go so far, so fast, in our strategy to reduce carbon emissions. Total is leading the way in this industry. What we’re doing right now is pretty drastic,” he goes on.

Reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) is the only way to reach global climate change goals. The Group is fully committed to a transition to clean sources of energy, with the aim of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

Carbon emissions reporting

  • Scope 1: Direct from company activities.
  • Scope 2: Indirectly created during the production of energy used by the company.
  • Scope 3: Other Indirect Emissions e.g. from customer use of company energy products.

Total is pushing forward with a long-term strategy designed to make it a world leader in renewable energies. The Group is already investing heavily in solar, as well as onshore and offshore wind. Low-carbon renewable electricity should account for 15-20% of sales by 2040. Using its affiliates, it will reach 35GW of renewable power generation by 2025.

Total intends to decarbonate not only its own processes during extraction and production (Scope 1 & 2), but also reduce the carbon intensity of its products (Scope 3) allowing customers to in turn reduce their carbon footprint.

CO2 emissions and LNG in the energy mix

International Energy Agency analysis shows gas will be an important fixture in the global energy mix up to and beyond 2050. The industry will have to adapt to the energy transition, using alternative gases like biomethane and low-carbon hydrogen, as well as reducing emissions associated with liquefied natural gas (LNG).

LNG forms when natural gas is cooled to -162ºC. This process shrinks the volume of the gas by a factor of 600, making it easier to store and ship. The process of existing plants emits about 0.3 metric tons of CO2 per ton of LNG cooled (scope 1 & 2). When it reaches its final destination, it is turned back into a gas at regasification plants (scope 1 & 2). Consumers in turn burn the gas creating their own emissions (scope 3).

Total plans to double its production of LNG by 2025, at which point it will represent 22% of the energy produced by the Group. “We are the world’s second-biggest provider of LNG, of course, we need to look at our processes from end-to-end and work out where we can reduce emissions,” continues Dath, “The technological building blocks we are creating have to make financial sense, that way we can pass saving on. There’s much more work to do before we reach zero across the board.”

Total is looking to areas of the business where it feels it had the best performing teams and products in terms of decarbonation. One LNG site in Norway of which Total is a partner will be close to zero by connecting the all electrical plant to the grid, the electricity used being 98% renewable. The regulatory framework and infrastructure in much of Scandinavia supports Total’s strategy. This success story allows Total to look at similar scenarios in different locations.

Research and development

In July 2020, Total reaffirmed its commitment to the cleaner energy mix by creating a Hydrogen Business Unit. Methane pyrolysis is one process Total’s R&D teams are working on, it is used to split natural gas or biomethane directly into hydrogen and solid carbon. It needs relatively little energy and, if the energy used comes from renewable sources, it is fully CO2-neutral.

Biomethane production from biomass, unlike fossil fuels, works in a closed carbon cycle and does not contribute to increases in the atmospheric concentration of CO2. “One day we might be able to imagine replacing LNG with a low carbon alternative, that’s still very much in the research phase. We’re talking about sustainable solutions, but they have to make sense to our customers, and we should still offer them affordable prices,” he emphasizes.

R&D teams are working full time to find technology which will allow for the reduction of emissions, over the next decade the department believes it can put much of this decarbonization technology into other parts of the business, not just when it concerns gas.

Dath believes biogas will also move front and centre in the years to come, scaling up will take time.

“We have to be objective. What looks promising? What might work? Many of our R&D projects are already at what I would call an advanced stage, others are really looking at the early stages of some of this technology and we have to examine and evaluate as we go. It’s really cutting-edge stuff in many cases,” explains Dath, “We’re looking at the absorption of gas in a number of different materials for transportation, but as yet we haven’t got anything that’s economically as viable as the processes we already have in place for LNG.”

Working with the customer

Total is working hard on mitigating scope 3 carbon emissions, passing know-how directly to the consumer and staying fully involved in the cycle of its wide range of energy products.

Over the past five years, the Group has not only increased the provision of electricity using renewables, solar and wind power. But also developed methods of carbon capture and storage (CCS), already a proven way of reducing CO2 emissions. Even in the shipping of oil and gas products, more efficient motors and using wind (Magus effect) out at sea can help.

Moving forward producers and consumers alike will be actors in the driving down of carbon emissions. “What’s really interesting to me is how we’re becoming increasingly local, even as a global company,” says Dath, “We are looking at what works where, which often comes down to logistical or geographical issues. What’s going to work in the future, when it comes to finding solutions to such significant environmental questions, will be regional, national and ultimately local.”

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