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09/10/2023 News

An industrial symbol: 10th anniversary of the SOBEGI gas treatment unit in Lacq

  • In 1951, the discovery of the Lacq gas field in the Béarn region – whose resources were be distributed all over France – marked the beginning of a real industrial saga.
  • In the 2000s, although the gas field was nearing depletion, the decision was made to produce the remaining 3%.
  • In 2013, the gas treatment unit (UTG), inaugurated by the Prime Minister, gave a new lease of life to local industry and highlighted the capacity of the Lacq Basin to continue its epic journey. 


Gas was first circulated through the SOBEGI (Bearnaise company for industrial management) gas treatment unit in summer 2013. The grand opening took place in the presence of the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, on September 22, 2013. Ten years on, the Management of SOBEGI, a wholly-owned affiliate of TotalEnergies, has decided to bring together its employees to celebrate this watershed moment in local industrial history.

In 2011, in partnership with TOTAL E&P FRANCE and ARKEMA, SOBEGI kicked off a €153-million investment program. What were the objectives? To tackle the challenge of the depletion of the Lacq gas field while safeguarding the industrial activities that depended on this gas to maintain local employment. A émini planté was built at Lacq to process the gas produced and supply ARKEMA with H2S – the residual methane was used to supply the platform with low-cost energy.

At the time, the aim was that the investment would contribute to consolidating the historical activities of the basin, and in particular sulfur chemistry, despite the shutdown of commercial gas production. It was also seen as an opportunity to develop the Lacq Basin, making it a site of excellence at French and European levels. The industrial and safety culture acquired in the Basin for more than 50 years and the high-quality local synergies between industrial partners, local administration and authorities were key success factors in attaining these objectives.

"This program was a collective endeavor and it was a real cornerstone in the global strategy of the Lacq Basin. Looking at how dynamic it is today, we can feel nothing but satisfaction for that past ambition: to have an attractive energy strategy that would help strengthen the competitiveness of industrialists and invite new activities. It was an ambitious vision for the future that came true. And the feat is all the more remarkable given the current geopolitical context," explains Thierry Renard, current Head of the Pau Site, and an instrumental player in the Lacq basin transition between 2021 and 2016. "The price of gas in 2022 went through the roof on the international market, and our clients were protected from the massive price increases. A real competitive advantage," enthuses Frédéric Pavard, President of SOBEGI.


And the decline never happened

Production of the huge gas field discovered in the Lacq subsurface in the 1950s was a real opportunity for our country and in 1957, France inaugurated the biggest gas treatment plant in Europe. In the early 1970s, 30% of the gas consumed in France was domestic! At the beginning of the noughties though, the field was producing only 3 million cubic meters a day, against up to 30 million previously. The Total Exploration et Production France (TEPF) plant closed its doors at the end of December 2013. But the gas treatment unit (UTG), the construction of which had already been kicked off in 2011, with it 450 tons of piping, 2,200 m³ of concrete, 815 tons of metal structure, and 137 km of cables, was ready to take over. The UTG was a major asset in restarting activities in the Lacq industrial hub.  It helped erase the image of decline associated with the depletion of the field and turn the site into a new, attractive showcase for prospects. The results are a dynamic basin, jobs, and a succession of projects and investments with a focus on decarbonization.  

Under the clear blue sky of mid-September this year, at the village hall of Lacq-Audéjos, Frédéric Pavard thanked the past and present teams. "It’s about more than just gas; it’s all the services provided by SOBEGI that make it easier to set up new projects and the pooling of resources on site which makes our offers more attractive," he concluded, thanking all of the people present.