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From refinery to biorefinery

Venice and Gela, two major refineries converted in line with new standards, are emblematic of our work on environmental sustainability.

A new lease of life for Venice and Gela

Eni is a global energy company operating in an age of great transition and new environmental challenges. For this reason, we’re researching new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuel and also developing sustainable biofuels – both involving major investment. Within this framework, we’re developing technologies to convert conventional fossil-fuel refineries into biorefineries to produce high-quality, cleaner fuels. The conventional refineries of Venice and Gela have been radically redesigned, incorporating innovative solutions and using environmentally and financially sustainable production methods. Such investments in in-house research have, in part, often led us to patent innovative and efficient solutions, which have contributed to our role as a key player in the process of energy transition focused on decarbonization.

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ENI'S FACES#5 - Grains of information

Venice: the first conventional refinery in the world to go “bio”

Porto Marghera, in Venice, is the first conventional refinery in the world to be converted into a biorefinery. Since 2014, about 230,000 tonnes of vegetable oil have been treated and converted here per year. In 2019, Eni Rewind started the identification of possible development opportunities in Italy. In particular, feasibility studies of a Waste to Fuel plant were realized at Porto Marghera, with a FORSU processing capacity until 150,000 tonnes per year.

From 2024, a further upgrade to the plant is set to boost its processing capacity to 560,000 tonnes, with increasing levels of raw materials from food-production waste, such as used oils, animal fats and other advanced by-products. 

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Porto Marghera, the success of industrial conversion

Gela: Europe’s most innovative biorefinery

Sicily’s Gela biorefinery became operational in August 2019 – having had more than 3 million work hours spent on its conversion. The plant can process up to 750,000 tonnes annually of used vegetable oil, frying oil, fats, algae and waste/advanced by-products to produce quality premium biofuel.

According to all technical standards, the new biorefinery is considered to be the most innovative in Europe. It replaces the large petrochemical plant, on which construction began in 1962 and which has now shut down. To date, the refinery’s conversion cost is close to €285 million, plus an estimated additional €15 million of investment in the construction of a biomass pre-processing equipment and logistic facilities to improve feedstock flexibility, due to be completed by the end of 2020.

 

Biorefineries: production process and business model

In collaboration with Honeywell-UOP, we put in place at our laboratories in San Donato the our innovative Ecofining™ technology, which lets us take quality biofuels from vegetable oil. The process has two phases: hydro-deoxygenation and isomerisation. The first involves treating the outflow with hydrogen to eliminate oxygen and saturate the double bonds, the second reordering the paraffins to improve the final product's cold flow properties. The result is hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), a biofuel with better properties than that from the traditional method, known as fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), in term of energy content, impurities and cold properties. About 10% of this HVO goes on to enrich our Eni Diesel + fuel.