Development of new avenues for the production of fuels and polymers

In addition to optimizing existing processes, TOTAL is exploring new ways for monetizing carbon resources, conventional or otherwise (natural gas, coal, biomass, waste). A number of innovative projects are being examined that entail defining access to the resource (nature, location, supply method, transport), the nature of the molecules and target markets (fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals, specialty chemicals), and the most appropriate, efficient and environmentally-friendly conversion processes.

Coal to polymers

TOTAL has developed know-how in the various processes used to convert coal into higher value products by gasification. These efforts allow a better understanding of the technological issues specific to each targeted market (e.g., fuels through Fischer- Tropsch process, methanol or syngas), particularly in terms of energy optimization, water consumption and carbon capture.

TOTAL is studying a coal-to-olefin (CTO) conversion project that would be located in Inner Mongolia in China in partnership with the China Power Investment Corporation utility company. This project, with a capacity of about 800 kt / y of olefins, would use the innovative methanol-to-olefins / olefins cracking process (MTO / OCP), which the Group successfully tested in 2013 on a demonstration unit at Feluy, Belgium. The Chinese authorities gave their initial approval of the project in November 2013. The project anticipates submitting its environmental impact assessment to the Ministry of the Environment mid-2015, followed by the start of its FEED studies.

Natural gas to liquids

TOTAL continues to develop its know-how in the conversion of natural gas to fuel. For large-scale projects (more than 10 kboe / d), TOTAL is consolidating its know-how in the most efficient conversion processes and is studying innovative potential routes of gas monetization. TOTAL is also conducting research into small-scale concepts, such as flared gas solutions.

Biomass to polymers

TOTAL is involved in the development of processes dedicated or related to the conversion of biomass to polymers. The main area of focus is the development of a polylactic acid (PLA) production technology through Futerro, a joint venture with Galactic, a lactic acid producer, as well as developing a technology for dehydration of bio-alcohols into olefins (monomers for the manufacture of large conventional polymers), in collaboration with IFPen / Axens. Several projects are under study based on these technologies.

Biomass to fuels

In Europe, TOTAL produces biofuel, namely hydrogenated vegetable oils for incorporation into diesel, and ether produced from ethanol and isobutene for incorporation into gasoline.

TOTAL is a member of the BioTFuel consortium, the objective of which is to develop a chain for converting lignocellulose into fungible, sulfur-free liquid products through gasification and synthesis using the Fischer-Tropsch process. To benefit from economies of scale, it is envisaged to convert lignocellulosic feedstock into a blend with fossil fuel resources. This development involves an initial pilot demonstration phase located on the Dunkirk site in France for which construction was started in September 2014.

In 2014, the Group incorporated:

  • In gasoline, 473 kt of ethanol (1) at its European refineries and several depots(2); and
  • In diesel, 1,800 kt of VOME or HVO (3) at its European refineries and several depots (2).


(1) Including ethanol from ETBE (ethyl-tertio-butyl-ether) and biomethanol from bio-MTBE (methyl-tertio-butyl-ether), expressed in ethanol equivalent and biomethanol. Reference for bio content of ETBE and bio-MTBE is the EU Renewable Energy Directive.
(2) Zeeland refinery included (TOTAL share).
(3) VOME: vegetable-oil-methyl-ester. HVO: hydrotreated vegetable oil.
(4) Based on publicly available information, 2014 consolidated sales.