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Behind Total’s name change

Crude oil exploration workers at an oil rig in Buliisa District in western Uganda during the oil prospecting phase in 2012. FILE PHOTO

Why French Oil giants are now called TotalEnergies

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Last month, shareholders of the French oil and gas giants, Total SE, unanimously agreed to change the company’s name to TotalEnergies complete with a new visual identity.

Top company executives said the change in name was a reflection of the company’s strategic transformation into a “broad energy company.”

“This new name and new visual identity embody the course TotalEnergies has resolutely charted for itself; that of a broad energy company committed to producing and providing energies that are ever more affordable, reliable, and clean,” Total said in a statement posted on its website.

Patrick Pouyanne, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer noted: “Energy is life. We all need it and it’s a source of progress.” “So…to contribute to the sustainable development of the planet facing the climate challenge, we are moving forward, together, towards new energies. Energy is reinventing itself, and this energy journey is ours.”

“Our ambition is to be a world class player in the energy transition. That is why Total is transforming and becoming TotalEnergies,” he added.

TotalEnergies which is active in more than 130 countries including Uganda now describes itself as a broad energy company that is involved in oil and biofuels, natural gas, green gases, renewables and electricity.

Uganda’s oil project

Energy experts say oil companies are rebranding fast to send a message to the public and investors about their commitment to change business models to prepare for a low-carbon future.

It remains to be seen how TotalEnergies’ recent rebrand and its changing stance towards fossil fuels might reflect on Uganda’s oil and gas project where the French super major has taken a lead role in commercializing the country’s oil resources first discovered in 2006.

Total E&P Uganda, an upstream affiliate of TotalEnergies is leading the development activities towards production in the Tilenga project area (Exploration Area 1 (EA-1) and Exploration Area 2 North (EA-2N) within the Albertine region.

It is also playing a lead role in the construction of the EACOP, the world’s longest electrically heated pipeline to transport about 230,000 barrels of oil every day via the Tanzanian port of Tanga. In the downstream sector, TotalEnergies has also been present in the country since 1955 through its marketing operations and the company currently has over 200 filling stations nationwide.

Dr. Victoria Nalule, a Kampala-based natural resources consultant told The Independent in an email that the global move to tackle climate change as envisaged in the 2015 Paris Agreement has necessitated debate and action geared towards transitioning to a low carbon economy.

“This is leading to a decline in investments in oil and gas projects around the world and some oil companies have had to change strategy-including rebranding as in the case of Total- in order to reflect the global energy transition move,” she told The Independent on June 23.

“Oil majors are facing increasing pressure from government regulators and shareholders about the risk of climate change to their business,” Utpal Dholakia, a marketing professor at Rice University in Houston told the Houston Chronicle early this month, “It’s obvious Total wants to align their image with the new business strategy and wishes of all their stakeholders.”

James Muhindo, the coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas (CSCO), a consortium of local and international NGOs that advocate for transparency and accountability in Uganda’s extractives sector told The Independent on June 19 that Total’s rebranding is informed by the fact that they are trying to broaden their portfolio of investment to move away from predominantly fossil fuel investments to renewable energy.

“With them having fairly established themselves in fossil fuels, they are now working to show the world that they are more than oil and gas companies. This only shows that the red flag is up on oil and gas and the giants in the sector are planning their exit,”Muhindo told The Independent.

Dickens Kamugisha, the executive director of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), a Kampala-based civil society that has been advocating for responsible investment in Uganda’s oil and gas industry also told The Independent on June 21 that it appears the oil and gas companies are feeling the pressure from environmentalists.

But Kamugisha quickly noted that he doubts TotalEnergies’ rebrand will change anything. “These companies just want to show that they are doing something about the climate change talk.”

“In fact, as Total was rebranding, they were also giving the green light for billion-dollar projects in Uganda and Mozambique. They are sinking billions of dollars in these projects,” Kamugisha told The Independent, “The change in name or public perception is not going to change the way they do their work.

Kamugisha told The Independent that people in resource-rich poor countries are instead likely to see these changes putting more pressure on these countries to accept whatever deals these companies come up since an impression has been created to show that the oil and gas resources will soon become non-profitable.

Kamugisha said: “We have to understand that these companies are capitalist in nature and so we are likely to see that these changes will put a little more pressure on poor resource-rich countries to accept whatever deals these companies come up.”

“An impression is being created to show that the oil and gas resources will soon become non-profitable,” he said.

Kamugisha gave a recent example of how the Uganda government which had been playing hardball with both Tullow Oil and Total over the farm-down deal suddenly accepted the transaction last year which was far below the initial valuation by the country’s tax body—the Uganda Revenue Authority.

“These companies have a strategy to pile pressure on resource rich poor countries like Uganda to take their deals. If you do not agree upon what we are giving you, we have to leave. These are capitalists and they are not just going to change suddenly.”

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