Site reclamation

Three workers taking measurements on the brownfield AZF chemical plant site prior to cleanup and reclamation

Although in compliance with the regulations in effect at the time, some of our facilities have nevertheless resulted in soil pollution. Group companies have operated or are  currently operating many industrial sites that might contaminate soil due to chronic or sudden accidental leaks. This soil contamination must be controlled by preventing new contamination and progressively remediating sites, in particular those that present the greatest risk due to the soil conditions. The recommended procedure therefore involves both preventing and managing these risks. Our aim is to enable operations to continue or new activities to be developed without putting people's health or the environment at risk.

Preventing and Managing Pollution

Our approach is based on:

  • Preventing leaks by applying the highest engineering and operating standards.
  • Conducting regular maintenance to identify weaknesses and maintain facilities at their rated capacity.
  • Monitoring the environment to detect any changes in soil quality.
  • Preventing the spread of pollution resulting from past activities through containment or reduction efforts.

Several years ago, we set up a committee of experts to oversee the site reclamation and soil remediation process.

The committee is responsible for:

  • Coordinating our soil and water pollution prevention and remediation policy.
  • Overseeing site reclamation programs (while operations are ongoing) and final reclamation plans consistent with the future land use (after site closure).
  • Facilitating experience sharing among our various units.

In 2008, we drew up an extensive set of guidelines and sophisticated tools to manage contaminated sites and soils, with a view to preventing, managing and mitigating risks. The document comprises six methodological guides distributed internally and prepared in partnership with experts from the Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM), France's leading public research institution for the Earth sciences.

In 2009, we formalized our commitment by preparing a specific prevention plan covering three areas — soil pollution, water pollution and site reclamation. We have also stepped up our overall action plan to optimize site reclamation and soil remediation operations.

Remediation and Reclamation

We conduct cleanup and reclamation operations on an extensive range of sites, including mud pits and ponds resulting from our oil and gas production activities, decommissioned refinery units, mines, chemical plants and service stations.

According to the condition of the soil and the planned use of the land (new plant, parking lot, return to nature, etc.), we provide the solution that best addresses the social, environmental, health, technical and economic issues involved, in agreement with public authorities and stakeholders.

Our approach is based on:

  • An in-depth assessment of soil and groundwater pollution and the associated health and environmental risks.
  • The definition of treatment objectives aimed at eliminating these risks so that the site can be used for the planned purpose, either by Total or by a third party taking over the site.
  • The identification of reclamation strategies and the selection of appropriate treatment techniques.

Bioremediation of Polluted Soil in Vendin-le-Vieil, France

Total has acquired considerable technical expertise in the reclamation of land polluted with hydrocarbons, and more particularly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

On the Lacq site, in southwestern France, we have a research center dedicated to soil treatment. In recent years, a number of major remediation initiatives have been undertaken, particularly with regard to PAHs.

At the 32-hectare Vendin-le-Vieil site, used for the distillation of coal tar until 1997, we are carrying out a cleanup operation using an innovative bioremediation method based on endogenous microorganisms. It is being coupled with a phytoremediation program that consists of planting willows, whose roots create an environment that encourages the breakdown process. Around 700,000 metric tons have been treated to date. This soil cleanup and remediation method has been recognized as an effective way to eliminate certain organic pollutants that are otherwise very difficult to treat. The results are persuasive. The initial toxicity of the pollutants has disappeared and the biological functioning of the soil has been restored.

Ertvelde, Belgium: a Three-Phase Cleanup

Studded with unexploded bombs from World War II, the site of the former Ertvelde plant in Belgium — which produced lubricants and white oils (natural mineral oils) from 1923 to 1977 — presented a particularly complex challenge. The cleanup was organized into three distinct phases.

After more than five years of work, the first phase, the reclamation of ponds containing production waste, was completed in 2009. The acid sludge was neutralized and stabilized and the polluted soil was removed. A total of 230,000 cubic meters of material was treated and encapsulated onsite and 159,000 cubic meters of groundwater and pond water was pumped and treated.

The second phase — the treatment of the soil at the decommissioned facility — was undertaken between September 2009 and February 2010, with 35,000 cubic meters of soil excavated and 16,000 cubic meters of groundwater pumped.

Teams from the Mont/Lacq Research & Development Center and from Refining & Marketing Belgium are working together to prepare the third and final phase of the cleanup process, which will focus on groundwater remediation.

  • Offshore Environmental Challenges

  • Marine Environment