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Versalis: Eni's evolving chemistry

With Versalis our company has committed to the development of chemistry through innovative technologies.

Italian chemistry with a circular approach

Versalis (Eni) is Italy's largest chemical company with an international presence in the plastics and rubber sectors. It is active in the production and marketing of intermediates, polyethylenes, styrenics and elastomers, and is now increasingly committed to chemistry from renewable sources and technologies for recycling plastics and for the development of high-value products. It believes that sustainability and circularity are a strategic driver to be applied to processes and products throughout their life cycle.

The whole of Eni’s chemical sector is led by the Energy Evolution Business Group, one of the two Groups that make up the current organisational structure.  The three groups in its strategy for sustainability and circular economy are the diversification of raw materials, which include those from renewable sources, eco design, and the development of polymer recycling technologies.

At every level, product and technological innovation, continuous circularity and efficiency are the basis of its transformation and competitiveness.

Business development

The production of bioethanol from second-generation sugars obtained entirely from residual biomass that is not in competition with the food chain was restarted in Crescentino (Vercelli). The process makes use of a full recycling system for process water, making the site completely energy-independent thanks to the exploitation of lignin, the part of the biomass not intended for the production of second-generation sugars, as feedstock for the thermal power plant. The plants use a one-of-a-kind proprietary technology called Proesa®. With the research and know-how developed by Versalis, this technology will make it possible to pursue further developments in the production of a full range of renewable fermentation products such as bio-oils for the biorefinery, PHA polymers, intermediates for biopolymers and biochemicals.

Due to the Covid-19 health emergency, in 2020 at Crescentino, the production facilities were partly modified to produce a range of hand and surface disinfectants known as Invix®, using bioethanol as the active ingredient.

The disinfectant, developed on a World Health Organisation formulation and authorised by the Italian Ministry of Health, is a surgical medical device.

As far as the recycling of plastic waste is concerned, a chemical recycling process based on pyrolysis is being developed for Plasmix¹, which will be applied in a pilot plant in the Mantua factory to obtain new raw material to produce polymers with the same characteristics as those sourced from traditional raw materials.

Also, the acquisition of Finproject, a leading company in the specialised polymer applications segments, was finalised in 2021, with the aim of extracting value from the integration of the its market positioning for high value-added applications and Versalis' technological and industrial leadership.

Working together for a circular economy

Versalis’ emphasis on circularity is also materialised through alliances with other players active in the recovery and reuse of waste derived from plastic materials. In this area, thanks to the agreement with Forever Plast, a licence was acquired for the construction of an advanced mechanical recycling plant to transform selective plastic waste obtained from separate waste collection, particularly polystyrene and high-density polyethylene. The licence acquired from Forever Plast will expand the product portfolio from recycled raw material and consolidate Versalis' leadership in Europe in the mechanical recycling of polystyrene for high value-added applications, including food packaging.

Versalis has also exclusively acquired Ecoplastic’s technology and facilities, an Italian company belonging to the De Berg Group specialising in the recovery, recycling and processing of styrenic polymers. The agreement accelerates developments in advanced mechanical recycling, expands the portfolio of the Versalis Revive® recycling polymers range and consolidates its European leadership in styrenic recycling polymers.

In cooperation with the EcoTyre Consortium, which manages a national network for the collection and treatment of end-of-life tyres, an agreement was also signed with AGR, an Italian company that owns a technology for the treatment of used elastomers, for the development of new recycled rubber products and applications. With COREPLA (National Consortium for the Collection, Recycling and Recovery of Plastic Packaging), on the other hand, we have an agreement in place to exploit used plastics for gasification and chemical recycling processes (pyrolysis), through the use of the technologies were are currently developing.

Versalis joins the Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA) to actively contribute to the European target of using 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics in new products by 2025. The Alliance’s mission, promoted by the European Commission, is to encourage the recycling of plastics in Europe and to develop the market for secondary raw materials. Versalis is also a member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a project that brings together the world's largest chemical companies to speed up the transition towards a circular economy and respond to the pollution caused by plastic waste, with a particular focus on the problem of marine litter.

Versalis finally penetrated the market for agricultural protection products through an alliance with AlphaBio Control, a research and development company specialising in natural crop protection formulations. It is called Sunpower®, the marketed renewable broad-spectrum action herbicide that combats annual and perennial weeds in urban and industrial environments. 

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Notes

1) Plasmix - non-recoverable fraction of plastic waste.

An international vision

Versalis offers markets a constantly evolving product portfolio, strengthening its research and licensing with a global strategy.

It draws on its industrial assets, research centres, the invaluable skills of its people, a wide range of proprietary technologies and an extensive distribution and after-sales network to achieve these goals.

The Company is present in the Asia-Pacific region with its subsidiary Versalis Pacific Trading in Shanghai, Mumbai (India) and Singapore. In the same region, LVE, a joint venture with South Korea's Lotte Chemical, aims to advance development in the field of elastomers. The Company also has sales offices in Houston (Texas) to strengthen its presence in the local market, through its Versalis Americas subsidiary, particularly in the field of elastomers. Through the JV VPM with Mazrui Energy Services in Ghana, Congo and the Middle East, it plays an active role in the Oil & Gas sector with its oilfield chemicals portfolio.