TotalEnergies to stop palm oil use at La Mede HVO unit

  • Market: Biofuels, Oil products
  • 06/07/21

TotalEnergies — formerly Total — will stop using palm oil as a feedstock at its 500,000 t/yr La Mede hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) unit in southern France by 2023, chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said.

Workers at the plant said that palm oil will largely be replaced by domestically-produced rapeseed oil (RSO), and that TotalEnergies is considering increased used of used cooking oil (UCO). Pouyanne has previously said that using RSO at La Mede would temper profits.

Total has an agreement with the French government to import a maximum of 300,000 t/yr of palm oil, but Argus tracking shows that La Mede has not come close to running that amount. This year it had received around 80,000t as of the end of June, all from Indonesia, and cargoes have frequently backed up at the port of Fos-Lavera as La Mede storage filled.

There are clear signs that Total is running more RSO, sunflower oil, UCO and animal fats (tallow) at La Mede.

The decision to use palm oil there was met with significant opposition in France, including a national blockade of Total's refineries and depots in 2018. French rapeseed farmers argued that using palm oil to produce HVO would displace demand for domestically-produced rapeseed biodiesel (RME). Dominant RME producer Groupe Avril was particularly irked, and there was a testy public spat between it and TotalEnergies. RME and HVO diesel are molecularly separate but can compete in state diesel blend mandates. HVO can also be produced as HVO jet fuel (SAF) and HVO naphtha.

TotalEnergies initially aimed for 40pc of its feedstock to come from UCO, but this has never been achieved. The firm has to export all its HVO made from palm oil after domestic lawmakers banned the use of palm oil in biofuels from the end of 2019.


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