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Gela: laboratory of the future

We launched an integrated project in the area that makes the best use of local resources including from a circular perspective.

The Gela project

The project under way in Gela comprises:

  • converting the traditional refinery into a biorefinery
  • construction of the first Waste to Fuel pilot plant
  • installing solar panels 
  • environmental remediation and regeneration for new production activities
  • measures to support the territory: projects involving local schools, the MacchitellaLAB project and other initiatives
  • Upstream activities: hydrocarbon production, fully exploiting the potential of fields already in operation, maintenance of facilities and wells in production and the Argo-Cassiopea project
  • building a Safety Competence Centre and Safety Training Centre

All the petrochemical plants built in Gela since 1962 have closed down. The biorefinery, one of the most innovative plants in Europe, has been in operation since August 2019. The plant has a processing capacity of up to 750,000 tonnes a year and will be able to treat larger and larger quantities of used vegetable oil, animal fat, algae and by-products to produce high-quality biofuels.

It all began on 6 November 2014, when the Ministry of Economic Development, the Region of Sicily, the Municipality of Gela, the trade unions, Confindustria Centro Sicilia and Eni, together with its subsidiaries in the area (EniMed, Gela Refinery, Eni Rewind and Versalis), signed a Protocol for a new development plan and the relaunch of economic and industrial activity, amounting to a maximum financial commitment of €2.2 billion. To date, over €1.275 billion have been invested in the territory through environmentally, socially and economically sustainable investments aimed at developing the concept of circular economy, going beyond the objectives set by the 2014 Protocol in terms of the employment of direct personnel and the local supply chain. We operate the following activities in Gela, in addition to the Safety Competence Center and the Safety Training Center:

EniMed onshore

Our upstream operations are conducted by Eni Mediterranea Idrocarburi SpA (EniMed). Gela has three oil collection centres and its operations also include the oil centre in Ragusa and the gas facilities in Bronte, Gagliano Castelferrato and Mazara del Vallo. In 2020, EniMed carried out monitoring across all onshore plants, leading to a 52% reduction in fugitive methane emissions. This was accomplished as a result of the internationally recognised Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programme, which is designed to identify and reduce fugitive emissions through targeted maintenance activities. 

The Argo-Cassiopea gas treatment plant

In September 2021, we started the construction of the treatment plant for gas extracted from the Argo and Cassiopea fields. The project, one of the most significant under the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding for the Gela area, is in line with Eni's strategy of exploiting natural gas as a low-emission energy source. Construction, installation and commissioning will take almost three years, with an investment of over 700 million euros. Gas production is expected to begin in the first half of 2024. The current set-up and development plan have been specifically designed to minimise the surface area occupied, with the aim of pursuing environmental sustainability while enhancing the local area.

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Gela: onshore and offshore Upstream activities

Through EniMed we manage the production and treatment of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons in the area.

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Gela biorefinery

The biorefinery in Gela was launched in August 2019. Designed for processing advanced and unconventional loads at up to 100% of processing capacity, it is one of the few bio-refineries in the world with such high operating flexibility. In 2020, the site was fully operational: in the ramp-up of biofuel production, vegetable oil processing volumes hit 710,000 tonnes – more than double the 400,000 tonnes processed in 2019. Biofuel production, meanwhile, increased fivefold compared to 2019. The bio-refinery guarantees improvement in all environmental fields, emitting more than 70% fewer emissions (of SO2, NOx, CO and dust) than traditional production cycles. The launch of the Gela plant is a further step along the path to decarbonizing our activities. In March 2021, 18 months after the bio-refinery was opened, the new BTU plant begins production, allowing up to 100% of raw material waste to be used for biofuel production. The use of castor oil at the plant (which is obtained via the experimental farming project on semi-desert land in Tunisia) means that the use of palm oil will be completely eliminated by 2023.

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In Gela the most innovative biorefinery in Europe

The plant processes used vegetable and cooking oils, animal fats, algae and waste to produce high quality biofuels.

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Eni Rewind activities at Gela: environmental remediation and Waste to Fuel development

Eni Rewind is Eni’s environmental services company that works in accordance with the principles of circular economy to recover industrial land, water and waste resources through efficient and sustainable reclamation projects. In Gela, Eni Rewind manages the remediation activities in the areas owned by Eni and ISAF, as well as for other Eni companies, helping to combine environmental recovery and technological innovation with the creation of development opportunities for the area. In 2021, we completed through Eni Rewind, the demolition of the decommissioned refinery’s systems, such as the SNOX chimney and the D-D1 Flare, which will help free up areas for new industrial activities and reduce the visual impact of the former petrochemical plant. Work is over, at an estimated cost of more than €25 million.

 With a view to the circular economy, priority is given to operations that ensure the recovery and future reuse of materials. So far, almost 2900 tonnes of scrap metal (mainly iron, stainless steel and aluminium) have been sent for recycling, along with electrical motors and cables, which can be given a second life and used for civil and industrial purposes. In addition, since December 2018, Eni Rewind has been engaged in testing, through a pilot plant, built in the areas of the Gela refinery, Eni’s proprietary Waste to Fuel technology that transforms organic urban waste into bio oil.

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Gela: reclamation and redevelopment of former industrial areas

Thanks to Eni Rewind, Gela is an example of environmental restoration aimed at creating development opportunities for the area.

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Investments in renewables and the circular economy

We have for some time been working on developing renewable energies in the area around Gela as a core element in the strategic evolution of our business model towards a low carbon future. In 2020, the Gela sites produced around 114,000 tonnes of waste (60% from production and worksite-related activities and the rest from reclamation); around 93% of this was non-hazardous. Where possible, we favour recovering waste, in line with our circular economy strategy. This mainly takes place through the recovery of metal materials produced by plant maintenance and decommissioning activities. Protecting the environment, in line with prevention, protection, information and participation criteria, is one of the cornerstones of our operations. We are particularly focused on the efficient use of natural resources, interaction with biodiversity and services related to the ecosystem.

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Gela: investments in the circular economy and renewables

In Gela we are committed to safeguarding the area by focusing on research and sustainable development.

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2020 Eni Local Sustainability Report for Gela

Each year, we publish a comprehensive report on the activities of Eni companies at the Gela site. A major focus of the report is a closer look at the companies’ contribution towards the target of carbon neutrality by 2050. In detailing the progress we are making in tackling the challenges around the energy transition, it reveals how these challenges have become even starker in the light of the pandemic. The document also places safety and respect for the environment in the spotlight. The 2020 edition of the Local Sustainability Report provides an overview of activities in this area, which take place with the active engagement of local stakeholders, as we work together to achieve a shared long-term sustainability target. 

The document forms part of Eni’s sustainability reporting, which also includes the 2020 Consolidated Disclosure of Non-Financial Information (NFI), drafted in accordance with Legislative Decree 254/2016, and Eni’s 2020 Sustainability Report. These can be consulted for further information.

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