Securing fuel availability across the nation
Every drop of JET A-1, AVGAS 100LL or UL 91 that makes it into an airport fuel tank has completed quite an epic little journey. After flowing down a pipeline from the refineries and settling in a separation tank, the fuel is then carefully re-injected into trucks which haul their precious cargo over the last few kilometres to the delivery point. Christophe Guerbois, Head of Supply, Logistics and Risk Management, takes us on a tour of Total's gigantic supply network.
A tightly-knit supply chain across Europe
Total is Europe's top supplier of JET A-1, the most commonly used jet fuel ahead of AVGAS 100LL and UL 91. This fuel enjoys a market share of more than 50% at many airports in some 15 countries across Europe. Its supply network relies on efficient pan-European coverage; from major refining or import areas like Le Havre, Rotterdam, Fos-sur-mer or Donges, the Rhine region or the area around Berlin, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Italy, and as far as Gdansk and the Baltic countries, thousands of hectolitres transit through the system’s veins. This logistical maze is supervised by Christophe Guerbois and his Supply Team. All eight of them coordinate flows and ensure total fuel availability at client airports. Total has long mastered a classic problem inherent to its market: fuel demand outstrips the capacity of its refineries. "To compensate for this, we first resort to imports. Stored in strategic areas of the supply chain, fuel is dispatched on demand. We also buy from third party refiners across Europe." Stocks especially are a key factor in the system, since they enable us to adjust to any one-off disruptions in the supply chain (sudden production or transport shutdowns), a risk that’s always there.
Avoiding shortages and controlling environmental risks
The fuel supply business, which involves both logistics and managing service providers, requires extra vigilance and attention, since a lot of incidents can cut off the supply stream and jeopardize regular deliveries. These disruptive factors are legion and include strikes that paralyse a whole country or a region, industrial accidents and supply chain saturation, especially in the summer period. When faced with a squeeze, the logistics genius of Christophe Guerbois and his team move into action: "We start by tracking down every alternative way to continue with supplies, while constantly adapting the supply chain to changing markets and new environmental constraints.” The latest textbook case was the yellow vests crisis of 2018-2019, followed by the strikes over the pension reform: "Despite months-long widespread social unrest, fuel reached its destination at all airports. We excel in coming up with solutions and implementing them on a large scale in 2-3 days," comments Christophe.
A highly demanding supply chain
A supply chain plan is generally developed based on distance to the customer, frequency and the volumes requested. Leaving the Le Havre area (France), for instance, pipelines directly supply the major airports in the Paris region, Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly, from one depot to another. Fuel barges ply Europe’s waterways to supply the Rhine area, while the rail grid absorbs much of the traffic across Central Europe. More visibly, the road network is key for making it over those last few kilometres. Certified road carriers must comply with Total's quality rules and processes. "In addition to a secure supply, it’s the quality of the product that we guarantee. Bypassing rigorous processes is totally ruled out. Our job is to bring in the fuel with the minimum possible transloading (transferring from one container to another, ed.), in the best possible conditions.”
"We work closely with our refining and trading colleagues at Total, and with the teams that coordinate transport and truck deliveries. When we anticipate a risk of shortage in the supply chain, we take immediate action for the worst-case scenario. Thanks to our fast reactions and everyone’s hard work, we always have a plan B up and ready to run.”
Séverine Ruellan, supply chain coordinator
The fuel supply chain isn’t an easy ride. But when you have decades of expertise and in-depth knowledge of each country you’re delivering to, no territory is inaccessible. Weather conditions can make things difficult and therefore require high skill levels. When it's not the logistical difficulties, it's special seasonal features that get in the way. Corsica isn’t just a beautiful island. It’s also a headache for logistics experts who, throughout the tourist season, have to shift very large volumes in very short periods of time across small infrastructures that are dormant the rest of the year. "There’s no such thing as a standard configuration. Every customer is different.”
More than 40,000 km3 of public and private networks
2/3rds of JET A-1 fuel transits through pipelines
Mainly used in the eastern half of Europe.
Highly concentrated around Belgium and the Netherlands
Take fuel the last few kilometres
8 Total refineries in Europe and 3 main import depots (Lavéra, Le Havre and Rotterdam).
A BARREL OF CRUDE WILL BECOME…
46% automotive fuel
22% heating fuel
5% petrochemical compounds
4% marine fuel
3% bitumen compounds
6 to 8% JET A-1
Less than 1% AVGAS 100LL
LPG (butane, propane) lubricant oils, wax