Responsible polymers: from production to transformation
Our ambition is to become the responsible energy major. That is why we have factored climate change into our strategy across our entire value chain: from exploration and production to the distribution and transformation of energy resources. We are constantly innovating to improve the carbon footprint of the polymers, more commonly called plastics, that we produce from oil and natural gas. They leave our plants in the form of white powders or granules, and are used to make many everyday products.
At the Ningbo polymers plant in China, we produce polystyrene.
The polystyrene produced at Ningbo leaves in the form of white granules.
Polymers are used to make numerous everyday products, in this case a cap for a dairy product.
Polypropylene is a polymer used to make food packaging, among other things.
Metallocene polyethylene helps reduce the weight of some vehicle parts. In this case a tank for a BMW motorcycle.
At our research center in Feluy, Belgium, Total is innovating in polymers.
Environmental performance communicated to our customers
Our Group supplies manufacturing companies all over the world with polymers for applications as varied as food packaging, cell phone cases, car bumpers and running shoe soles. These polymers are everywhere in our daily lives, which is why the teams at our three research centers in Belgium, France and the United States are constantly innovating to improve their intrinsic properties (strength, sealing, lifespan) while also cutting the energy needed to produce them and their environmental impact.
This is true, for instance, of our Lumicene Supertough® polypropylene film used in the food industry for packaging, in agriculture to protect harvests in greenhouses, and in transport to secure pallets of goods. It is much thinner compared to standard ethylene films, yet equally strong, which reduces the amount of plastic used by 30% and cuts energy consumption and CO2 emissions by the same amount.
There is another example in the automobile industry: on average 20% of a vehicle's parts are made from plastic (dashboard, bumpers, seats, etc.). That is why we are developing polymers to make parts lighter while also meeting very demanding technical and regulatory requirements. This reduces the vehicle’s weight, which in turn cuts its fuel consumption and therefore its greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, 20 of our polymer products have been awarded the Total Ecosolutions label in recognition of their environmental performance (including health criteria), far exceeding market standards across the whole of their life cycle.
A responsible commitment today and tomorrow
When we act to protect the environment, we are also concerned about what happens to plastics after use. Total's staff have been innovating in this area for several years. In Belgium in August 2016, we announced the launch of a range of polyethylene films using 25 to 50% recycled plastic. Thanks to this range, in 2017 20,000 tons of recycled plastic will be given a new lease of life.
We are also committed to biopolymers produced from lactic acid and lactide. In November 2016, we set up a joint venture with the Dutch company Corbion to build a factory in Thailand with an annual production capacity of 75,000 tons of 100% renewable and biodegradable biopolymers.
We are also taking steps to reduce the environmental footprint of our facilities. We have signed the Responsible Care® charter committing us, across our petrochemicals operations, to safely and sustainably manage chemical products throughout their life cycle. We are also taking part in Operation Clean Sweep®, an initiative by the World Plastics Council aiming to eliminate the industrial disposal of plastic waste in waterways and oceans.
We are taking constant action to improve the environmental footprint of plastics, because while their usefulness is currently unquestionable, that will not continue to be the case unless they are consumed responsibly around the world.