In Angola, we are building the future
This testimony of Christophe de Margenie is taken from the book "TOTAL EP IN ANGOLA - PIONEERS IN 1953 - LEADERS IN 2013"
"Total in Angola is one of the Group's finest adventures. Three companies - Fina, Elf and Total - were initially parallel and in competition with each other, arriving on site separately and eventually joining forces. Three series of very strong human stories, made up of challenges and technical feats. They have given us one of our most solid experiences and have made Total E&P Angola one of the pillars of our company today. It was Petrofina that paved the way onshore in 1953. For Total, the offshore adventure began in the early 1980s. At the time, Elf made the first and most interesting discoveries, particularly with Block 3. We were with the former Total team on Block 2, with Texaco as operator. There was also exploration on Block 6, opposite Luanda. The block was declared dry but we continued, without ever getting discouraged. I took my part in it. We must remember that after independence and the civil war, Luanda lacked everything. Many things had to be made up for. The first office was set up, followed by a barrack that served as a hotel for Total, where the water tanks would fill up at night in a thunderous din. We then set up a restaurant, with a French chef, who soon became famous. We invited our Angolan friends and even our competitors, who loved it. I remember that his speciality was frog's legs. I also remember our first small supermarket, open to all expatriates, not just our employees, where all the basic French products were available. All this helped us to live the fabulous technological odyssey we were on.
The beginning of the oil adventure in Angola was Petrofina, which opened the onshore. I also note that its permits, sold a few years ago, are still producing. Then it was the beginning of offshore exploration. And above all, in the early 90s, the opening of deep offshore, which nobody believed in... nobody! In this case, it was Elf that made the real break-through in ten years, when we didn't know at that time how we were going to operate in depths of 1,400 or 1,600 metres, like on Girassol. It took a lot of nose and aplomb to take out permits without really knowing if we would find something and especially if we would be able to develop it afterwards. That was also the pioneering spirit: to carry on, while keeping the will and the audacity. We don't wait to know if we can "develop" before taking a licence. And if, in the end, we don't succeed - as rarely as possible - at least we will have tried! That's the whole adventure of Girassol, the first large deposit put into production by the new company Total-Fina-Elf. Of course, if you drill too many dry wells, you can't be stubborn, but you have to move forward with the same determination, rigor and responsibility shown by those who, in Angola, really made Total take its deep offshore turn. These achievements have not only enabled the Group to receive formal recognition from the profession for the high technical skills of its engineers - for example, by winning the IPTC Award in Beijing and an award at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston - but, above all, they have enabled us to be called upon today to work on projects like Libra in Brazil. The story is extraordinary: we have taken deep offshore blocks on the Angolan antesalifer because we believe it is the same geological facies as the one highlighted in Brazil. And during this exploration in Angola, thanks in particular to our knowledge as a major offshore project developer, we can integrate the Brazilian project as a partner of Petrobras, as part of their strategy to open their own antesalifer. From every standpoint, this crossroads is fabulous. Let's say it clearly: Libra, Brazil is a lot thanks to Angola. That's our real reward! Today we are the leading oil producer in Angola and we hope to remain so. But be careful, being "No. 1" is not an end in itself. What matters is to maintain the quality of the relationship we have with those who allow us to exploit their resources...
Our Total E&P Angola teams have to meet at least three challenges. First, we need to take advantage of our long-standing presence and concern for Angolan interests to develop further. And on this point, I would like to stress that we must always push forward with exploration, because that means preparing for the future. I am thinking of what is being done on the Kwanza, for example. It's an exploration full of promise that will continue to drive the development of our subsidiary. But our teams have to think about the future while taking into account - the second challenge - this imperative requirement that I keep reminding everyone in the Group, in Angola and elsewhere: controlling our costs! The first asset they have is their knowledge of the country. Total in Angola is an Angolan company with Total shareholders. It is developing locally, thanks in particular to our Angolan employees, whose training we continue to provide, with the help of the "Total School". We have also contributed to the creation of several high schools. Finally, the third challenge is safety and compliance with Total's commitments to sustainable development, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, proper wastewater management, etc. This obsession requires our employees to integrate our new techniques and procedures more than ever into the very architecture of their projects. It is in Angola that Total is developing its school of progress in deep offshore production. We are at the heart of Total's culture: requirements in terms of technology, as well as the quality of our partnership with stakeholders and in particular with the producing country. The Angolan State and Sonangol - to whom I pay tribute and with whom we have a relationship of trust - recognise us as a long-term partner. At Total, we do not forget our history. It's a story of a company that was small, with modest and difficult beginnings. Today, it is probably the country where we are developing the most high-tech investments.
In Angola, with innovation, we are preparing for tomorrow! »