The term ‘decommissioning’ refers to the final stage in the life-cycle of assets belonging to the Oil & Gas division and indeed of industrial plants in general. Such operations are a key part of the investment process since they have major economic, social and environmental implications in the context in which they are performed. Full compliance with sustainability principles during this phase of our activities is consistent with our mission, which is aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Regenerating for the purposes of sustainability
The transformation of unprofitable or decommissioned assets, which are then given a new life and a sustainable, low-carbon future, along with the search for innovative solutions, processes and products aimed at reusing and exploiting waste materials, is part of Eni's strategy for making the economic system more efficient whilst at the same time minimising the consumption of energy and other resources. Decommissioning brings with it opportunities in terms of both employment and the regeneration of raw materials and assets that still have the potential to be converted and reused for other purposes once they reach the end of the industrial life-cycles for which they were designed.
Eni plans and evaluates its commitment to decommissioning activities on an annual basis and maintains a special abandonment fund to cover the cost of decommissioning all plants at the end of their productive lives. Assessing the economic value of a project notably takes both abandonment and technical costs into account, with the associated costs covered by the designated fund at the end of the site’s useful life. Accurately estimating costs, which should be updated periodically, and outlining a payment schedule are key when it comes to setting up an appropriate abandonment fund. Eni has set up a dedicated department tasked with overseeing the process and capitalising on the skills and expertise associated with such activities, which are similar in terms of their complexity to construction and development projects, for the purposes of ensuring the uniform and organic coordination of decommissioning operations.
In the Adriatic Sea, development activities in 2021 mainly concerned maintenance and production optimisation at offshore gas fields to recover the residual mineral potential. The decommissioning plan to plug & abandon non-productive wells and remove non-productive platforms progressed in the year, in compliance with applicable Italian laws. The decommissioning of six platforms is currently under the ministerial authorization process. In circular economy initiatives, a programme in collaboration with national research institutions was launched to redevelop assets in the decommissioning phase. In particular activities started up to convert an offshore platform into a marine science park.
With regard to the Italian off-shore sector, the decommissioning of platforms will represent a major commitment on the part of Eni over the coming years. Such operations have already begun with the mine closure programme, which is designed to pave the way for the platforms to be removed and will see work being carried out on some 40 or so off-shore wells over the coming years, with work already under way on two of them. In the Upstream sector, meanwhile, the off-shore decommissioning plan for the district of Ravenna is expected to require financial investment amounting to some €150 million over the next few years, with 33 wells set to close and 15 structures to be dismantled, subject to the necessary permits being obtained. With regard to on-shore facilities, meanwhile, decommissioning work is already more advanced on the whole. Almost all decommissioned structures for which the necessary permits have been obtained have already been demolished and removed and the process of reclaiming the corresponding environmental features, which follows the decommissioning stage, already under way where necessary. Significant results have already been achieved in areas that were once home to large petrochemical sites, such as Assemini (CA), Porto Marghera (VE), Priolo (SR), Brindisi and Crotone, to name but a few, where almost all decommissioned plants have now been completely removed.
Moreover, in 2021 an in-depth study was conducted on decommissioning activities, to develop a methodology for analysing the potential impacts on human rights in this phase and which will be consolidated over the next two years.
Conversion into bio-refineries
We have been actively involved in various projects aimed at closing mines and decommissioning industrial areas for some years now and have recently launched a number of major projects involving the green conversion of decommissioned industrial sites, such as the conversion of the traditional refineries to biorefineries in Venezia (Porto Marghera) and Gela. Bio-refining, in particular, plays a central role in Eni's evolution, in fact we are increasing the installed processing capacity from 1.1 Mton/year in 2021 to about 2 Mton/year in 2025, reaching 6 Mton/year by 2035. Furthermore, by 2023, our biorefineries will be completely palm oil free, meaning they will not use palm oil in production. Instead, alternative feedstocks, such as cooking and frying oils, animal fats and waste from vegetable oil processing, and advanced feedstocks, such as algae, waste oils, lignocellulosic materials and bio-oils, will be used.
A new beginning
Off-shore facilities that are not to be removed may be reused by other parties for scientific, environmental monitoring and various other purposes, including in the renewable energy field. Furthermore, the significant investment planned will have a major impact on employment. In this respect, it is particularly important that groups with the ability to offer an integrated service, especially where off-shore activity is concerned, from operations at sea to storage and work spaces on land that will make it possible to do away with recovery and disposal operations, be set up if such operations are to be executed more efficiently and the impact on the local area maximised. Those areas that are freed up as a result of these structures being removed can then be returned to the local authorities to serve new purposes or be used for new industrial initiatives, given that the infrastructures and services that would encourage reuse are already in place. Decommissioning is therefore a practical example of efficiency, sustainability and a circular economy, which is why Eni has set itself the goal of enhancing the process and transforming it into an opportunity for all of the stakeholders involved, pursuing concrete actions and promoting a transparent and on-going dialogue with all of the parties concerned.
Read also about circularity in our operations
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