A competitive Lacq embraces the circular economy

The Total affiliate SOBEGI has remade the Lacq gas site in southwestern France, which it manages, by offering waste-to-energy and energy production solutions for the chemical industry. By opting for pooled resources, local production and the circular economy, SOBEGI is shrinking the chemical complex's carbon footprint. Its manufacturing customers are the big beneficiaries of the major investments made. Nothing comparable to Lacq exists anywhere else in Europe.

The poster child for industrial revitalization

The Lacq gas field was an important chapter in France's energy history. Inaugurated in the 1950s, it produced up to 30 million cubic meters of gas a day. Production ended in late 2013. Roughly 3 percent of Lacq's initial sour gas reserves remain and are now being used by SOBEGI1 to produce energy and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). These are then consumed locally.Thanks to partnerships and Total's investments, the Seveso III2-classified Induslacq site is now home to such leaders in their field as Arkema, Toray CFE and Vertex. Continuity and renewal, in one package.

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Here at Lacq in southwestern France, SOBEGI's customers reap the benefits of a locally-produced energy mix.

Local Production and Cogeneration

What makes Lacq innovative is its production of energy locally, in a closed-loop system. Here's how it works.

To supply Arkema with its hydrogen sulfide (H2S) feedstock, the gas extracted from the local subsurface has to be treated on an on-demand basis, to separate the H2S from the methane.

Eric Verbrugge, senior industrial development engineer for Total Développement Régional3, is based at SOBEGI and responsible for attracting new investors. He said: "The methane produced can't be exported to the national network. To optimize the economics, it was decided to stop purifying it to the level required by national commercial specifications."

"We had to find a way to unlock the value of the surplus methane," Verbrugge added. "SOBEGI looked at several alternatives and opted for cogeneration. It involves supplying an engine with gas recovered from the site, to produce both power and heat."

The circular economy is now in place. The project's code name, PEGAZE, is a French acronym for "producing power from surplus gas."

There are two parts to PEGAZE [see infographic]. The first, PEGAZE 1, is scheduled to start in summer 2018, when three engines will be installed to deliver 12 megawatts (MW) of power. Its subsequent sister project, PEGAZE 2, will bring the total power generated to 20 MW in early 2019.

"PEGAZE will produce enough to supply 50 percent of Lacq's power needs. Our strength is being able to incorporate locally produced energy — gas, power and steam — at a complex industrial facility that involves the regulation of different systems," Verbrugge said.

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A factor in Lacq's appeal

There are many advantages to producing energy locally. Taken from the Lacq reservoir, the gas doesn't need to be transported, eliminating additional costs and carbon emissions. The steam and power produced by SOGEBI's PEGAZE units will be sold and used by customers at the Induslacq site. Marketable surplus power will be fed into the national grid.

Keep in mind that gas is the lowest-carbon fossil fuel, emitting only half as much as the coal that is still too often used in power plants in Europe.

"We're also seeking out every synergy that could improve the complex's environmental performance," Verbrugge said. "For example, since 2009 Bioénergie du Sud-Ouest (BSO, a Vertex affiliate) has been producing bioethanol from corn grown in the region. BSO also supplies Messer with carbon dioxide from corn fermentation. The CO2 is purified to meet the food quality standard for making carbonated beverages, for example."

In exchange, SOBEGI's customers capitalize on the environmental quality of the energy they use on site. Chimex, a L'Oréal affiliate specializing in fine chemicals, has been able to certify that the steam it uses comes from waste solvent-to-energy recovery.

Lacq's industrial story continues, as a new chapter in the history of the energy transition. The site's renewal spawned these new activities that support the energy transition and energy efficiency, which are vital to stay on track for the 2 degrees Celsius target agreed on at the Paris COP21 in 2015.

The circular economy and local production are now areas of expertise that enable SOBEGI to offer responsible industrial investors a competitive, unique range of solutions in Europe.

1 Stands for Société Béarnaise de Gestion Industrielle.

2 The Seveso III directive is the most recent of several EU directives that require member states to identify industrial sites with major accident risks, called "Seveso sites," and make sure that strict preventive measures are in place to counter their industrial and technological risks.

3 Total Développement Régional promotes what the Lacq chemical complexes have to offer, to attract responsible industrial investors.

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