Bioraffineria di Gela

Biorefineries, a solid example of circular economy

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

Advanced biofuels to decarbonize transport

Biorefineries play a central role in Eni's evolution because they contribute to the achievement of our main goal: the total decarbonization of all our products and processes by 2050. Advanced biofuels play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector. Biorefineries, too, are the result of our constant commitment to research and technological innovation. Through the development of proprietary technologies patented by our Research Centres, we have completely redesigned the traditional refineries in Venice and Gela, where raw biomaterials are now processed: plant-based oils, animal fats, used cooking oils or algae extracts. Today we have a total processing capacity of 1.1 million tonnes per year and in the 2021-2024 Strategic Plan we have set the goal of doubling our total capacity by 2024, reaching 5–6 million tonnes by 2050. Furthermore, by 2023, our biorefineries will be palm oil free, meaning they will not use palm oil in production. Instead, alternative inputs, such as cooking and frying oils, animal fats and waste from plant-oil processing, and advanced inputs, such as algae, waste oils, lignocellulosic materials and bio-oils, will be used.

A further line of development in the field of advanced fuels produced from waste concerns the possibility of obtaining pyrolysis oil from the treatment of end-of-life tyres (ELTs). This particular area is the subject of an agreement with Ecopneus signed in July 2021, aimed at assessing the most suitable technologies for exploiting ELTs and obtaining both energy products (pyrolysis oil) and chemical products (asphalts, sports surfaces, acoustic insulation, street furniture, etc.) with a view to encouraging the circular economy and environmental sustainability.

Waste al Fuel

FUTURA#2-From Waste to Fuel

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

The bio-refinery of Venice is the first conventional refinery in the world to be converted into a bio-refinery. Since 2014, about 360,000 tonnes of raw materials of biological origin have been treated and converted here per year. As the plant will undergo further upgrades in 2024, we plan to increase processing capacity to 560,000 tonnes per year, with a larger input deriving from food production waste, such as waste oils, animal fats and other advanced by-products. At that point, the Venice biorefinery will produce 420,000 tonnes per year of HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) biofuel. This process is made possible by our proprietary Ecofining ™ which, given its great flexibility, allows for different types of inputs to be treated.

Furthermore, in 2019, through Eni Rewind we started the identification of possible development opportunities in Italy. In particular, we conducted feasibility studies for the construction of a Waste to Fuel plant in Porto Marghera (Venice) with a treatment capacity of up to 150,000 tonnes/year of OFMSW (Organic Fraction of Municipal Solid Waste), i.e. the “wet” portion of cooking waste. Also developed in our Research Centres, Waste to Fuel technology makes it possible to obtain bio-oil from OFMSW, which can be used directly as a low-sulphur fuel for maritime transport or refined to obtain high-performance biofuels.

Gela: Europe’s most innovative biorefinery

In August 2019, after over 3 million work hours, the Gela bio-refinery also became operational. The Sicily plant can process up to 750,000 tonnes annually of used vegetable oil, frying oil, fats, algae and waste by-products or from energy crops in desert or pre-desert soils for the production of quality biofuel. Furthermore, in March 2021, the new BTU (Biomass Treatment Unit) was launched and tested. It will enable the use of 100% of the biomass not in competition with the food chain, for example, used cooking oils and fats from fish and meat processing in Sicily. The aim is to create a zero-kilometre circular economy model for the production of biodiesel, bio-naphtha, bioLPG and bio-jet fuel. Castor oil will also be used to feed the bio-refinery, thanks to an experimental project to grow the plants on semi-desert land in Tunisia.

Also in Gela, a pilot Waste to Fuel plant is in continuous operation. Every day, it is fed by the OFMSW that the company collects as part of Ragusa’s waste management service.

Considered the most innovative in Europe according to all technical standards, the new bio-refinery has replaced the large petrochemical plant, on which construction began in 1962 and that has now shut down.

Biorefineries: production process

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.