Total S.A. is an oil company headquartered in Paris, France, and one of the six "Supermajor" oil companies in the world. Its businesses cover the entire oil and gas chain, from crude oil and natural gas exploration and production to power generation, transportation, refining, petroleum product marketing, and international crude oil and product trading. Total is also a large-scale chemicals manufacturer.
Rejecting the idea of partnering with Royal Dutch Shell, French Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré insisted after World War I that France create an entirely French oil company. At Poincaré's behest, Col. Ernest Mercier, a graduate of the École Polytechnique expert in the electric industry, enlisted the support of ninety banks and companies to found Total on March 28, 1924, as the Compagnie française des pétroles (CFP), literally the "French Company of Petroleums". Petroleum was seen as vital in the case of a new war with Germany. However, the company was from the start a private sector company (it was listed on the Paris Stock Exchange for the first time in 1929). CFP took up the 23.75% share of Deutsche Bank in the Turkish Petroleum Company (renamed the Iraq Petroleum Company), awarded to France as compensation for war damages caused by Germany during World War I by the San Remo conference.
In 1985 the company was renamed Total CFP. In 1991 the company name became simply Total. After Total's takeover of Petrofina in 1999, it became known as Total Fina. Afterwards it also acquired Elf Aquitaine. First named TotalFinaElf after the merger in 2000, it was later renamed back to Total in 2003.
Today’s Total was created by two successive mergers - first of Total and Belgium’s PetroFina to create Totalfina, then of Totalfina and Elf Aquitaine to create TotalFinaElf. As such, the Group, renamed Total in May 2003. Total operates in more than 130 countries and has over 96,400 employees. As recently as 1992, the French government still held 5% of the firm's shares, down from a peak of over thirty percent. In the time period between 1990 and 1994, foreign ownership of the firm increased from 23% to 44%.
The AZF chemical plant which exploded in 2001 in Toulouse, France, belonged to the Grande Paroisse branch of Total. On January 16, 2008, Total S.A. was required to compensate all of the victims of the pollutions caused by the sinking of the ship Erika. They are required to compensate the victims in the amount of EUR 192 million. This is in addition to the EUR 200 million that Total S.A. spent to help clean up the spill. The company feels that the verdict is unfair because it wasn't their fault the ship sank. They will be appealing the verdict because it forced the users of the ship to also be the inspectors and not the people that made the ship. On August 13, 2007, Total S.A. announced a lower fuel emission, lower emissions and cost-efficient petroleum product, named Evolution. Evolution is designed to let its user use less fuel and get further than other fuels. The product was developed exclusively for Total because of the demand for more energy efficient products. This fuel can be used with any engine that runs on unleaded. Total have also recently announced that they are exploring the possibilities of entering the nuclear power sector. Although they already own 1% of Areva, the largest nuclear business in the world Total does not currently have extensive involvement in nuclear power. However, in January 2008 Total announced that they were to sign an agreement with Suez and Areva to submit a nuclear power plant project to the authorities in the United Arab Emirates