French oil giant Total is investing more than €500M (US$584.6M) to convert its Grandpuits refinery into a renewable diesel plant processing animal fats and used cooking oil, the company announced on 24 September.

Following its conversion into a zero-crude platform, the plant in Seine-et-Marne will produce renewable diesel primarily for the aviation industry, along with other products.

Meanwhile, crude oil refining at the platform would be discontinued in the first quarter of 2021 with storage of petroleum products ending in late 2023.

“With the industrial repurposing of the Grandpuits refinery into a zero-crude platform focused on energies of the future connected with biomass and the circular economy, Total is demonstrating its commitment to the energy transition and reaffirming its ambition to achieve carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050,” Total’s president of total refining & chemicals Bernard Pinatel said.

Grandpuits will feature three new industrial units, including a biorefinery. The new 400,000 tonnes/year unit, to be commissioned in 2024, will have an annual production of 170,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel, 120,000 tonnes of renewable diesel and 50,000 tonnes of renewable naphtha, used to produce bioplastics.

The plant will mainly process animal fats from Europe and used cooking oil, supplemented with other vegetable oils such as rapeseed, excluding palm oil.

In June 2019, Total started operating a 500,000 tonnes/year biorefinery at its La Mede facility in southern France following its conversion from a crude oil refinery. The plant drew controversy over its use of imported palm oil as a feedstock.

Total’s decision to end oil refining at Grandpuits followed an audit on the 260km Ile-de-France pipeline (PLIF), which carries crude oil from the Port of Le Havre to the refinery.

The refinery was forced to shut down for more than five months in 2019 due to a leak on the PLIF near Le Havre in 2014. Following government approval, the PLIF’s maximum working pressure was reduced to ensure safe operation. This meant the refinery could only operate at 70% of its capacity, which threatened its long-term financial viability.

The audit found that normal operations at the refinery could only be restored by replacing the PLIF, at a cost of nearly €600M (US$704M). Taking into consideration France’s energy transition plans up to 2040, Total decided to end its oil refining operations at Grandpuits and convert the site.