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Research centre at San Donato Milanese

We carry out research and strategic projects for Upstream and Downstream, from studying hydrocarbon fields to developing new biofuel.

Research programmes

In San Donato Milanese, on the outskirts of Milan, we have a research centre dedicated to Oil & Gas, a cluster of scientific laboratories working towards a double aim: developing innovative technology for the Upstream and Downstream sectors, and providing assistance and technical support for all operations. We also analyse rock, oil and gas samples here, extracted from wells to provide the data that guides all our exploration and development work in fields. San Donato also gave birth to technologies of great impact like Eni Slurry Technology (EST), which we have used in industry at the refinery in Sannazzaro de’ Burgondi and exported to China and elsewhere in the world. A separate section is dedicated to environmental technologies, to reclaim polluted land, especially through phytoremediation techniques.

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Eni research centre at San Donato Milanese | Eni Video Channel

Network of skills

The research centre in San Donato Milanese opened in 1985, in the neighbourhood of Bolgiano, integrating the old facilities of Metanopoli into an innovative complex equipped with cutting-edge scientific instruments. The facilities spread over 34,000 m2 and employ 290 employees, among them researchers, technicians and staff. The research projects cover every aspect of Upstream and Downstream, with the shared aim of reducing risks, improving technological skills and getting better skills, efficiency and sustainability in processes, plants and products. The technical and scientific skills in these laboratories are all multidisciplinary and integrated, and range from geoscience to engineering, chemistry to material science. The research centre in San Donato Milanese has a close collaboration contract with other Eni research centres and the main universities and research centres in Italy and the wider world, among them MIT in Boston, the polytechnics of Milan and Turin and the universities of Bologna, Naples and Pavia.

Science to improve industry

Every aspect of the research work at the laboratories in San Donato has in mind its concrete application in industry, to reach new heights in efficiency and sustainability. Thanks to analyses of rock and hydrocarbon samples, integrated with seismic data, we can quickly create models of fields to make our Upstream operations safer and more efficient. The data from our experimental geoscience helps our powerful digital processing system for simulating subsoil dynamics more and more precisely. With the equipment at our disposal, we carry out tests for EOR using our own products (Smart Fluids for water blocking) and provide specialist assistance at production sites to progressively improve operations. At the same time we have developed Eni Slurry Technology (EST), which represents a big step forward in sustainability throughout the Downstream sector, as it lets us get quality fuel from very heavy crude oil and the less impressive residues from refining. These laboratories also spawned the idea of building the first bio-refinery in the world, by converting the refinery near Venice. This first success was followed by the total conversion of the refinery in Gela into a bio-refinery. Thanks to studies done by researchers in San Donato Milanese, we are also developing innovative projects for capturing, storing and using CO2 and exploiting natural gas. The laboratories are also seeing technologies developed to reclaim polluted areas, especially land polluted by hydrocarbons and heavy metals, which can be removed by phytoremediation. In its diversity, all the research activity at the laboratories in San Donato is integrated through constant synergy, with in-depth chemical and physical analysis and experiments at pilot plants. Relying on cutting-edge instruments, the researchers in the laboratories study the properties of diverse materials, from rocks to catalysts, bio-oil to deposits, super conductors to ionic liquids. At the same time, in the pilot plants, technicians and engineers test the evolution of lines of research on site. It is part of a continuous dialogue between science and industry.

Virtual technologies for safety

Within the research centre in San Donato Milanese we have set up a 3D room that creates simulations of our plants using virtual reality. By setting up a head-mounted display and 3D glasses we can run professional training programmes for individuals and groups. The demo is used to improve safety processes, assess how ergonomic the plant is through objects using innovative tools like the hand tracker, and do virtual training on crisis management, as astronauts and pilots do.