TotalEnergies has ordered a review of its reconversion project for Grandpuits
It is in the role of total reconversion. The former TotalEnergies refinery in Grandpuits (Seine-et-Marne) should install a photovoltaic power plant, a hydrogen production unit and a biorefinery by 2025, which should green the oil giant’s balance sheet. But is this really the case as the project stands? Not sure, according to the Environmental Authority, which is sending TotalEnergies a full list of recommendations in a notice made public on Friday, December 23.
The conversion project for this refinery in Seine-et-Marne, for more than 500 million euros of investment, was announced in September 2020. Fossil production has been stopped since 2021 but the site continues to produce -storage of petroleum products and unloading. A 25-hectare photovoltaic plant was opened in October, part of the new project, which aims, among other things, to produce fuel from old recycled cooking oils and not from petroleum.
There will also be a plastic recycling unit and a biodegradable and recyclable plastic production site. In addition, there is enough to produce hydrogen, with the goal of achieving “sustainable” aircraft fuel with a lower carbon footprint than kerosene.
A “Part of the Shadow”
The entire project must be approved by the State, which relies for this on the Environment Authority, whose opinions do not have the force of law but are highly listened to. It is often used by judges for example in court decisions.
However, the opinion made public on December 23 refers to two main critical points: the effects on the land and natural environment on the one hand, as well as the effects on the population through air pollution and pollution on noise is not adequately documented. “We make recommendations when we have doubts about the way things are formulated by the project leader. This means that the contracting authority has left some shadows, either because it is poorly structured or because he does not want to provide some information”, explained Philippe Schmidt, the president of the Regional Mission of environmental authority ( Mrae) Ile-de-France .
None of the very fine particles, the most dangerous
The Mrae opinion recommends first of all to “carry out an assessment of the efficiency of the wastewater treatment facilities”, to “put in place the necessary corrective measures if necessary as well as ecological monitoring in the Seine with regard to expected releases. . Clearly, according to Philippe Schmidt, “on what to do to evacuate the waste, we have very little information on file”.
Second, the atmospheric pollution generated by the site is insufficiently documented, considers Noël Jouteur, the rapporteur of the opinion. “The contracting authority emphasizes the reduction of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur and dust emissions. The problem is that not all pollutants are measured”, and in particular PM2.5, these fine particles of 2.5 microns in diameter or less that cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as cancers, and that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting. The project assessed only PM10, but PM2.5 is “more harmful to health” according to the WHO because it can “cross the pulmonary barrier and enter the bloodstream”.
“There are discharges outside the site perimeter”
Finally, another disturbing element that invites Mrae to challenge the public, during a site visit, Environmental Authority experts realized that there is hydrocarbon pollution around the factory. “The file tells us that this is a clean factory that prevents the overflow of pollution, what we see is that this is not completely happening, there are discharges outside the perimeter of the site, it seems important to us that this is explained and fix”, refers to Philippe Schmidt. Mrae is appealing to the State services at this point, which has already assessed the site.
The opinion of the Environmental Authority is not a “red light”, which will stop the TotalEnergies project, but the oil giant has to justify itself. As Philippe Schmidt sums up, “even though Total is not legally required to follow us, it is required to respond to us”. Then sue the inhabitants, civil associations and whistleblowers of all kinds or even the State to seize it, if it thinks the justifications are insufficient.