Thierry Desmarest's visit to the Lacq plant, right from the beginning of the merger: a very symbolic visit
3 questions... about your feelings about theTOTALFINA & ELF merger...
How did you experience the merger on a daily basis?
The first days were under the sign of surprise. As the production manager of the Western Units Group, one of the many units of the Lacq plant operated by Elf Aquitaine Production at that time, I found myself in the '' redeemed '' camp. Concretely, our work with all my colleagues at the site was to run this huge plant, with very sensitive units in terms of safety, particularly because of an extremely dangerous gas, hydrogen sulphide. It was by far the top priority, so we stayed focused on our mission, away from the ongoing merger process. I would add that we are all professionals and there are not many ways to start a compressor or drill a well, which prevents endless discussions. In fact, the demands of our trades allowed us to ignore cultural differences. We have been able to perceive the richness of the combination of differences. Moreover, what made things easier was that very soon, ex-TotalFina employees were sent to ex-Elf subsidiaries and vice-versa, speeding up the mix of teams.
How did you find your marks in the new Total?
Quite easily, to tell the truth. It turns out that in my previous position I was Operations Engineer, seconded to Total Oil Marine in Scotland, at the St-Fergus terminal, 45 minutes drive from Aberdeen. I spent almost two years during which I met other staff Total, with whom I worked from day to day. We were doing the same activities and we all felt part of the production family, the operators. We became colleagues and we have remained so today. The only potential difficulties may have been related to people's problems, but I think this has resulted in very few departures, both on the 'ex-Elf' and 'ex-Total' sides.
The challenge was no longer to fight between French competitors but to work as a team, giving a solid image of professionals. This was all the more motivating because TotalFinaElf covered virtually all oil regions on five continents. It was exhilarating and opened up a lot of great opportunities.
What is the most memorable memory you have of this period?
For me, it is undeniably the visit of Thierry Desmarest to the factory of Lacq. He came to visit her from the first day when the process of the merger - complex in many ways - gave him the opportunity. Coming to the Elf Historic Site and meeting the people who made the business from this major discovery dating back to 1951, I found this gesture both noble and rich in symbols. He came where the adventure had begun, to begin a historic turning point. A group of VIPs took him around the various control rooms for a presentation of the activities of the site and he was able to discuss with the operators and technicians. Then, we were able to spend more than one hour with him, around a drink, in a very serene, open atmosphere, without any inappropriate word or inappropriate attitude. I knew very quickly that TotalFinaElf was on the right track!