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One of the main challenges for the energy sector in the transition process to a low-carbon future is to ensure access to energy for all in an efficient and sustainable way. According to International Energy Agency (IEA) projections, in the coming years energy demand will continue to grow, particularly in emerging markets and developing economies due to the convergence of several factors, including population increase, increased urbanisation and infrastructure development. The looming threat of climate change and the commitments made by national governments in the Paris Agreement require a strong push forward in the reconversion of industrial processes in specific sectors, such as transport and agriculture, promoting new technologies capable of generating clean energy and creating new job opportunities.
With this in mind, at the beginning of 2021, we launched a series of joint initiatives in various countries on the African continent to develop the supply chain for high-quality biofuels based on new circular economy models. These biofuels are produced from raw materials developed on marginal, severely degraded (e.g. due to desertification, drought or pollution) or abandoned land that are not in direct competition with food and fodder crops, such as agricultural residue and non-food crops (e.g. castor and Low-ILUC cover crops1).
Strengthening our relationships with our African partners allows us to find substitute and additional sources to supply our biorefining system and meet the needs of the European market, while accelerating our decarbonisation goals.
The aim is to provide the raw material for our bio-refineries in Italy (35% of supply by 2025) and for the conversion of refineries in Africa, by building agri-hubs that will produce vegetable oil from the pressing of seeds such as castor beans or croton, a tree that grows wild in Kenya and produces oil seeds, and lastly, cotton seed, a co-product of the fibre industry that was not previously exploited at present.
An important aspect of these raw materials is the fact that do not compete with the food chain because they come from crops grown on degraded soils and are therefore particularly sustainable.
For this reason, vegetable oils obtained from African supply chains contribute to replacing palm oil, which has not been in use in our Venice and Gela bio-refineries since October 2022, ahead of previous forecasts and current regulations.
For this purpose in Rwanda, for example, Eni has signed an agreement with the National Industrial Research and Development Agency to launch a pilot project to produce seed varieties for oil crops and to use drones for soil analysis and crop monitoring. The project is the first 'open-air laboratory' on the African continent using the most advanced precision farming techniques.
To date, Kenya is the country where the agricultural development project is in an advanced state and is leading the way in achieving the identified targets. It is from the port of Mombasa that the first cargo of vegetable oil for bio-refining produced by Eni in the African country left at the beginning of October 2022, bound for the Gela bio-refinery.
1Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) is the displacement of agricultural production into areas with high carbon stock (such as forests, wetlands and peatlands), driven by the growing demand for raw materials. Low-ILUC biofuels are produced in a way that mitigates the emissions caused by land use change, avoiding competition with land dedicated to food production or natural environments.
Solutions to decarbonize transports
We produce high-quality biofuels according to the principles of the circular economy.
The road showed by Kenya
Kenya is located on the East coast of Africa and it is one of the most advanced countries in Africa when it comes to its commitment to combatting the effects of climate change. It is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change and intends to reduce its emissions 32% by 2030, while also creating “a globally competitive and prosperous country with a high quality of life," according to its Vision 2030 plan. This includes the development of the various integrated circular economy projects that make Kenya the first African country to enter the development of the vertical bio-refining supply chain, offering income opportunities and market access to thousands of farmers in degraded areas and to the various communities where the projects will be carried out.
In December 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta met with our CEO Claudio Descalzi to discuss how we could contribute to the achievement of the country's environmental commitments, provide local communities with efficient and sustainable access to energy resources, while also reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, which Kenya imports. The agreement between the parties identified the following projects to be developed in the country, which were made official by signing an MoU with the Kenyan government:
- agricultural development with a model that envisages the development of agricultural sectors of interest and the construction of industrial plants for the production of vegetable oil known as Agri HUBs
- collection of UCO (Used Coocking oil) and more generally of Waste&Residue
- transformation of the current idle refinery in Mombasa into a bio-refinery to produce HVO and Biojet
- identifying partnerships with international and national organisations to find funding for project development.
The project in Kenya officially started in July 2021 after the memorandum of understanding was signed, and within a few months of the agreement, the castor-oil chain was launched by supplying seeds to about 25,000 farmers and the croton and cotton seed collection started, while one year after the agreement with the government (15 July 2022) we started vegetable oil production from the first agri-hub in Makueni. In the first development phase, when new agri-hubs are built, we expect an output of around 30,000 tonnes per year of vegetable oil, while in the second phase, when we are at full capacity, we will reach 200,000 tonnes per year. In early October 2022, the first cargo of vegetable oil for bio-refining produced by Eni in the country left the port of Mombasa bound for the Gela bio-refinery, demonstrating the efficiency of the vertical integration model in bio-refining developed by the company.
Our initiatives on the African continent
Biofuels, which will be produced by Eni Sustainable Mobility (Italian version), a company 100% controlled by Eni, starting from January 2023, play a central role in Eni's commitment to achieving the complete decarbonization of its products and processes by 2050. Thanks to Eni's experience, technology and know-how, we have launched a series of joint initiatives to develop the biofuels supply chain in various African countries, including Angola, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Congo, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda A further step towards the process of transforming energy resources into possible partnerships that facilitate the energy transition and the development of a real circular economy on the African continent.
In Angola we are expanding our areas of cooperation with the country. Through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, development opportunities in the waste collection sector were assessed. The aim is to valorise the organic fraction as much as possible. The relationship between Eni and the local government will enable Angola to increase its LNG production and the availability of domestic gas for the country's industrial development. Other initiatives focus on the role of renewables, agricultural development, access to water, energy, education and healthcare. Not forgetting initiatives on land mine clearance, access to land, diversity and inclusion.
In March 2022, Eni and BP signed an agreement to establish Azule Energy, a new equal joint venture combining the Angolan activities of the two companies, in pursuit of environmental and sustainability ambitions and promoting investment, employment growth and local development. Azule Energy aims to help develop the potential of the country's upstream sector, while seizing the new opportunities of the energy transition, thanks to the growing role of gas and renewables in its portfolio.
In Benin, following the meeting with President Patrice Talon, a number of growth projects are being developed for the agro-industrial supply chain. The valorisation of agricultural waste and the production of oilseeds that do not compete with the food chain are the main areas we are working on. We are in the process of defining the role that the country could play due to its high levels of cotton cultivation. Benin is a leader in West Africa in the production of this type of fibre, the by-products of which can be used as feedstock for bio-refineries, promoting a virtuous example of circular economy. With this in mind, in March 2022 we signed a new co-operation agreement with the country's Ministry for Agriculture, Farming and Fisheries to develop Low-ILUC oil crops which will be used to supply our bio-refineries. This agreement will contribute to the development of new industrial models in Benin, ensuring the sustainability of the agro-feedstock procurement chain and providing the country with benefits in terms of employment and the broader economy.
In Congo, thanks to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding the development of the agro-fuel sector in the country is under way. The MoU in question aims to boost the production of castor oil on an industrial scale by setting up a network of agri-hubs. The agreement will provide raw material for Eni's bio-refining systems, an opportunity for the country to diversify its economy and job opportunities for local people. Agri-Hubs will be centres for the transformation of castor beans into castor oil, but they will also serve to train farmers and offer them technical support. After the initial phase, a pilot project to sow castor beans on more than 200 hectares of land, in 2023 we expect to start a second phase of industrial development, involving the cultivation of 150,000 hectares with an estimated 90,000 beneficiaries by 2030. Also in Congo, agricultural and gas exploitation projects were discussed in October 2021, including access to energy for the internal market. Indeed, Eni is the only company currently involved in development activities, supplying gas to the Congo Electric Power Station (CEC), which provides 70% of the country's electricity production.
The aim of making Eni's projects in Côte d'Ivoire completely carbon neutral is one of the main themes of Eni's involvement in the country. In agreement with President Ouattara, following the discovery of the Baleine field, which will be the first net zero emission (scope 1 and scope 2) development in Africa, Eni is committed to supporting an accelerated development phase and a parallel study phase of the Full Field, employing the best available technologies to minimise GHG emissions and implementing high efficiency plant solutions, with process energy recovery and reduction and control of fugitive emissions.
Eni and the Ivorian Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Energy have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for initiatives in a number of areas in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): decarbonisation, natural climate solution, agricultural development, agro-feedstock production and local development. The idea is to carry out projects that are able to strengthen the country’s energy security, protecting its natural resources and its biodiversity.
Some of the key aspects of Eni's work in the country include, along with the possibility of converting the Mombasa refinery into a biorefinery, the development of Kenya's agriculture sector through agri-feedstock projects to supply the bio-refinery the collection and refining of used cooking oil (UCO), the development of a bioethanol plant and the advancement of international partnerships. In Kenya, we are working to assess the untapped potential of bio-refineries, always with a view to sustainability that does not compete with the country's food chain. It is essential to ensure that food security is respected throughout the process. We aim to promote professional opportunities for farmers, who, through a network of hubs, will develop biomass to feed the bio-refineries, thereby benefiting from additional and stable income. In the context of UCO collection, one of the goals of the project is to increase awareness of the environmental and health benefits.
In December 2022, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), the Italian Embassy in Nairobi and Eni launched the SEMAKENYA II programme to test climate-resilient sustainable farming technologies and practices in Makueni County. The initiative, funded by Italian Cooperation with 2 million euros, is supported by the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute in Bari (CIHEAM Bari) in partnership with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO). SEMAKENYA II will support the cultivation of castor-oil plant varieties on pilot fields and the valorisation of local drought-resistant crops, such as legumes and tropical fruits, with strong sales potential on national and international markets. A digital platform linking farmers directly to buyers will also be introduced, with the aim of ensuring fairer trade for farmers and a quality product that meets market demands.
In February 2022 we signed with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Mozambique (MADER) an agreement for the cooperation and development of agricultural projects in Mozambique, aimed at producing oil seeds and vegetable oils to be used as agro-feedstock for the production of biofuels. Under the agreement, Eni and MADER will assess potential sites and the most appropriate crops, focusing on areas that would not compete with food production and taking into consideration the preservation of forests and natural ecosystems. Other initiatives include the collection and valorisation of agricultural and agro-processing residues, by-products and co-products, for production of biofeedstock and Natural Climate Solutions (NCS). The agreement builds on the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2019 by Eni and the Government of Mozambique for the joint definition of sustainable development and decarbonisation projects to support the country’s National and Local Economic and Social Development Agenda. Also, it is in line with Eni´s commitments to accelerate the energy transition in fossil fuel producing countries.
In November 2022, Eni signed an agreement with the Rwandan government to develop joint innovative initiatives within the areas of agriculture, the protection of unique forest ecosystems, technology and health. This is Eni’s way of strengthening its activities in the country to create an innovative transition hub, continuing along the journey that began with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in April 2022, identifying joint opportunities within the value chain of the circular economy and decarbonisation.
Eni and IRENA for decarbonization in Africa
The recent agreements entered into with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) emerge among the various initiatives aimed at promoting the inclusion of renewable energies in the paths towards the decarbonisation of the states that are members of the international agency. This agreement aims to facilitate dialogue and the sharing of experiences to accelerate energy transition and the development of renewable energy in fossil fuel exporting countries, identify obstacles to private sector investment in renewable energies in the countries where Eni operates and to promote solutions in coordination with governments with a particular focus on biofuels, marine energy and offshore renewables. In this regard, Eni and IRENA are jointly committed to integrating the African continent into the biofuels value chain: institutional capacity building, agribusiness and industrial development initiatives for the production of advanced biofuels will support the decarbonisation of the transport sector and contribute to increased development opportunities.