Journalist: Preserving the local environment is an integral part of the success of TotalEnergies' activities. In 1991, the Company established an anti-pollution assistance and intervention unit near Marseille, in south-eastern France, known as FOST, for Fast Oil Spill Team. The team, now celebrating its thirty-year anniversary, can be deployed anywhere in the world. This June, the FOST took eight trainees, including firefighters working in the Company's refineries and some with the national fire service. On completing their training, they all spent a whole morning taking part in a large-scale exercise: a scenario requiring the mobilization of all human and material resources in response to an oil spill, in this case imaginary.
Site manager: So we've been called out as back-up to an accident on the Chemin du Terrail, in Berre-l'Étang. The fire department is on the scene and the river Arc has been polluted.
Journalist: Abdallah Bouhlassi is the FOST Operational Manager. He explains the aim of this morning's drill.
Abdallah Bouhlassi: The trainees came to us to for a one-week pollution-response course. Every day, they have an extra stage to complete, and today is the final exercise which will show us if they've acquired all the skills that they need. We'll see if we have successfully passed on the message to them, and what they have learned.
As I speak, it's getting closer to the dam. That's why we're trying to act fast because the oil flow is approaching and to prevent it getting into the lake we're putting up the dam to catch it. After that, it can be recovered from the dam. We'll have time to collect it and perfect the collection site set up.
Journalist: What do you teach the FOST trainees?
Abdallah Bouhlassi: The main thing we do is demystify the depollution exercise, because it's just an activity like anything else. An activity to combat pollution and preserve the environment. When people see the word "pollution" they tend to lose their grounding, and it's important to remember that it's basically common sense, and resources. So here they learn to use those resources and not to forget their skills. We want them to analyze all the incoming data so that they can make the most precise analysis of the situation possible and quickly come up with a strategy.
- The slick will be here in fifteen minutes
- So it's OK?
- It's OK. We'll be able to confine it while we set up the site.
- We can say that we've managed 50% of our objective, or more, because the oil slick can't go any further, so now we've just got to set up the site.
- The site, collection, storage, removal and the logistics zone.
Journalist: In addition to the training, Abdallah Bouhlassi tells us about FOST's main mission.
Abdallah Bouhlassi: The chief mission is technical assistance to help increase the skills of TotalEnergies staff. Then we sometimes get called out by the Company or for other companies if TotalEnergies asks us. And we have costly equipment that we rent out to Exploration & Production affiliates with short-term projects so that they can lower their costs.
Journalist: Can you tell me what you're doing?
- So here we're protecting the banks ahead of the dam. Covering the whole of the area so that we can set up the decontamination site on top of those covers to make sure that we don't pollute the site.
Journalist: During the exercise, the priority is to protect and contain in order to stop the pollution. Around two hours later, everything has been set up and the team can clean the contaminated area properly. If the site goes on for a long time, they can recover in the Support Zone, all without damage to the environment. So what did the trainees think? We asked Sergeant Lamare from the Paris fire department.
Frédéric Lamare: The course content is a lot of field work. And as for the firefighters from TotalEnergies and the national fire service, we found that we really worked well together, and that's something that we need to retain.
Journalist: Alexandre is a shift firefighter at the Feyzin refinery. He was pleased with his FOST training.
Alexandre Coullet: Our refinery is on the bank of the Rhone therefore maritime pollution can happen in the river, so there are depollution techniques we can use and this course helps us to learn these techniques. We come to either perfect the ones we know or to learn new ones, which was the case for me this week. I saw lots of things that I hadn't seen before. There were some things I had done, and I was able to really consolidate them. So it was very useful. Tiring, but good. Really very good.
Journalist: Before saying goodbye, we asked Abdallah Bouhlassi to sum up the FOST in three words.
Abdallah Bouhlassi: I think that there are three important words: "Skills" from their many years of field experience. "Adaptability": when they get to the site, they need to do the best they can with what they've got. And "Commitment": when they're on a mission, they go right to the end of it. We throw all our resources at it, and we ask for more if there's anything we haven't got onsite.