Circular economy in our high-quality advanced biofuels

The Venice and Gela biorefineries represent Eni's commitment to the path towards decarbonisation.

Advanced biofuels to decarbonize transport

Biorefineries play a central role in Eni's evolution because they contribute to achieving our main goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The Hydrotreated Vegetable Oils (HVO) we produce from feedstocks that do not compete directly with food and feed crops, such as waste and agricultural residues, are key to contribute to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.

When added to diesel, HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) yields Eni Diesel +, Eni's premium fuel. The biofuel composed of 100% pure HVO is called HVOlution and is Eni Sustainable Mobility’s first diesel fuel produced from 100% renewable raw materials, waste raw materials and vegetable residue and from oils generated from crops that do not compete with the food chain, according to the conventional criterion of Directive (EU) 2018/2001 "REDII". Since February 2023 it has been sold in 50 Eni petrol stations and will be available by April 2023 in 150 sales points in Italy. Before being sold at Eni petrol stations, pure HVO biofuel was already in use in various contexts, from the handling of passengers with reduced mobility in airports to logistics. It was also tested on buses, trucks and trains with excellent results. Therefore, for heavy transport biofuel is among the solutions of immediate application for commercial vehicles because it can be used immediately with the current infrastructure and engines, without impacting on the costs of adapting logistics, infrastructure and vehicles.

Biorefineries are also the result of our ongoing commitment to research and technological innovation. Thanks to the development of proprietary technologies patented in our Research Centres, we have completely reorganised the traditional refineries in Venice and Gela, converting them to process raw materials of biological origin (vegetable oils, but also animal fats and used cooking oils) and making increasing use of waste and residue feedstocks.

Moreover, our refineries are palm oil free. As of October 2022, Eni has stopped to import palm oil for its Gela and Venice refineries ahead of the deadline set by European regulations for 2023. In its place, the processing of waste and residue feedstocks (e.g. used cooking and frying oils, animal fats and vegetable oil processing waste) and advanced feedstocks (e.g. waste oils as well as bio-oils from lignocellulosic waste), as described above, has been maximised, in addition to those from our agri-hubs, which have already begun to arrive.

During the course of 2022, Eni intensified its commitment to developing new decarbonized products and services, also by creating satellite companies such as Plenitude, Vår Energi, Azule (a joint venture with BP in Angola) and by listing Energy One; it integrated bio-refineries, petrol stations and car sharing activities into a single entity dedicated to sustainable mobility, called Eni Sustainable Mobility. As confirmed in the Strategic Plan 2023-2026, we expect to achieve a bio-refining capacity of over 3 MTPA by 2025 and over 5 MTPA by 2030.

Moreover, a feasibility study on a third biorefinery in the industrial area in Livorno is currently underway. This maximises the synergies with the infrastructure that is already available and ensuring a productive future for the site with ample employment opportunities. The project involves building a line for the production of hydrogenated biofuel: a biogenic feedstock pre-treatment unit, a 500,000 tonne/year Ecofining™ plant and a plant for the production of hydrogen from methane gas. 

In December 2022, Eni, together with Euglena and PETRONAS, announced the launch of a technical and economic feasibility study for the development and operation of a bio-refinery in one of the largest petrochemical areas in South-East Asia, the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC). If the study is successful, it is expected that the plant could be operational by 2025 with Ecofining™ technology and with a flexible configuration capable of maximising the production of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) for air transport and HVO for road, rail and sea transport. The bio-refinery is also expected to have the capability to process approximately 650,000 tonnes/year and produce up to 12,500 barrels of biofuel (SAF, HVO and bio-naphtha) per day.

In February 2023, Eni Sustainable Mobility and PBF Energy announced an equal partnership in the USA for the St. Bernard bio-refinery currently under construction in Louisiana. This strategic partnership, combining the experience and skills of the two companies, reflects both partners' commitment to providing more sustainable fuels using low-carbon raw materials. In particular, Eni Sustainable Mobility provides its global expertise in sourcing more sustainable raw materials for HVO and PBF brings experience in large capital project execution and fuels manufacturing as well as access to the California renewables market through its existing logistics assets.

Kenya, an agri-hub model for vertical integration in bio-refining

In 2021, we launched a series of joint initiatives in a number of African countries to set up a network of so-called agri-hubs capable of vertically integrating the production of sustainable feedstock for biorefineries, with the aim of producing 700,000 tonnes by 2026. Agri-hubs have been set up in countries where we are already present and are designed to develop a supply chain for biofuels made from feedstocks that do not compete directly with food production, such as agricultural processing residues, crops not intended for food or fodder production and cover plants in crop rotation. The objective is twofold: to provide raw material for Eni's biorefining system in Italy and to promote the conversion of refineries into biorefineries directly in Africa. In this context, an early benchmark is Kenya which, as part of its decarbonisation strategy, in collaboration with Eni, is aiming to convert the Mombasa refinery into a biorefinery and to build a second-generation bio-ethanol plant from waste biomass.

Sustainable aviation fuels: the future of air transport

Biorefineries are also a key for the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). Since October 2021, the Taranto refinery has been producing a first co-fired product with a 0.5% share of used vegetable and frying oils (UCO). Today Eni sells JET A1+Eni Saf (fuel containing 0.5 of a bio-component made through a co-processing technology) from those oils. In addition, further SAF production at the Livorno refinery was consolidated during 2022. The refinery will distil the bio-components produced in the Gela bio-refinery thanks to the Ecofining™ proprietary technology. This product, named “Eni Biojet”, contains a 100% biogenic components and can be used in a blend with conventional jet fuel of up to 50%. Growth will continue from 2024 with the start of production of “Eni Biojet” in Gela and Venice, where projects are already underway that will allow for an additional 200,000 tonnes/year produced from renewable raw materials to be placed on the market. This will meet the Italian market’s potential requirements by 2025.

Considered in the short to medium term as the main way to significantly contribute to the decarbonisation of air travel, Sustainable Aviation Fuels are promoted by several initiatives such as the 2019 European Green DealCop 26, the proposed Refuel EU aviation regulation of the “Fit for 55” package and also by the “SAF Grand challenge” Memorandum of Understanding in the USA.

La bioraffineria di Venezia

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

The Venice biorefinery in Porto Marghera was the world's first example of converting a traditional refinery into a biorefinery and for which a patent on the technology used was obtained. The processing capacity is around 400,000 tonnes of bio-based feedstock per year in the Venice plant. From 2024, with a further upgrade, we plan to increase processing capacity to 600,000 tonnes per year, with an increasing share coming from food production waste, such as waste oil, animal fat and other advanced by-products. At that point, the Venice biorefinery will produce 420,000 tonnes per year of HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) biofuel. What makes this process possible is the proprietary Ecofining™ technology developed together with UOP Honeywell which, due to its great flexibility, allows different types of feedstocks to be processed.  

Gela: one of the most innovative biorefineries in Europe

After more than three million hours of work, the Gela biorefinery also began to operate in August 2019. Considered by all technical standards to be the most innovative in Europe, it took the place of the large petrochemical plant which was built from 1962 onwards and later shut down. The biorefinery has a processing capacity of up to 750,000 tonnes per year of used vegetable oils, frying and animal fats and waste by-products or from crops grown on marginal land to produce quality biofuels. In addition, in March 2021, the new BTU – Biomass Treatment Unit plant started trial production and testing. It will make it possible to use up to 100% of biomass that is not in competition with the food production, i.e., for example, used edible oils and fats derived from fish and meat processing in Sicily. The aim is to create a local circular economy model for the production of biodiesel, bio naphtha, bio-LPG and bio jet fuel.

Ecofining™: the technological heart of biorefineries

We have developed the innovative Ecofining™ technology in our San Donato laboratories in collaboration with Honeywell-UOP, which enables us to obtain high quality biofuels from raw materials of biological origin. The process consists of two steps: hydrodeoxygenation and isomerisation. In the first, we treat the feedstock with hydrogen to remove oxygen and saturate the double bonds, while in the second, we “rearrange” the paraffins to improve the cold properties of the final product. The result is called Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), a biofuel with qualities superior to those obtained by the traditional method (which produces so-called FAME: Fatty Acid Methyl Esters) in terms of energy content, impurities and performance in cold temperatures. Fifteen per cent of this HVO goes into our Eni Diesel+ fuel.