Eni's research centre in Novara

Where we are developing advanced technologies for latest-generation renewables and for environmental protection.

Research programmes

This is our research centre for renewable energies, new energies and materials science. The structure is linked to a cutting-edge industrial district, allowing us to enjoy valuable synergies in both research and production. Using our skills in various fields, we are developing technology ranging from latest-generation solar to biofuelstorage of surplus electricity and thermal energy to electrical production from waves, all the way to qualitative and quantitative assessments of potential pollutants in ground water. Here we have developed unique technologies for using solar energy, like Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). Our Waste-to-Fuel (W2F) and Biomass-To-Fuel (B2F) technologies were also born in Novara. The first, already in place at a pilot plant in Gela, turns the organic fraction of municipal solid waste into biofuel, while the second, developed by Eni-Versalis at the plant in Crescentino, to make biofuel from farm and forest cuttings, thanks to oleaginous micro-organisms.

Network of skills

The research centre in Novara is carrying on the scientific work of the Donegani Institute, one of the first industrial chemical research centres in Europe and for more than 70 years one of the most prestigious in applied chemistry for industry. Alongside other disciplines like physics, engineering, mathematics and IT, chemistry and industrial chemistry are today the two biggest specialist areas of the Centre. It is thanks to their solid skills in this area that our researchers have been able to fine tune the Biomass to Fuel processes (which produce biofuels from agricultural and forestry waste by means of oleaginous microorganisms) and Waste to Fuel (which allow us to obtain advanced bio-oil from organic fraction of municipal solid waste). The Sun feeds the parabolic mirror at the heart of the Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) pilot plant which heats up a heat transfer fluid that can provide heat to produce steam for powering the turbines, thus producing electricity or heating industrial plants or homes. The Centre is also working on energy storage. The excess electricity produced by renewable technologies feeds an innovative pilot system with a flow battery that stores it as chemical energy ready to be reconverted back into electricity. The heat produced by the CSP can be stored by a wafer-based heat accumulator made up of special concrete inside which the diathermic oil heated by the CSP flows. Similarly, when heat is needed at night, it is possible to just reverse oil’s flow direction to obtain the heat accumulated during daylight hours. The solid scientific and technological foundations developed in Novara are further strengthened by a  collaboration framework established with other Eni research centres and with some of the most important universities and research centres in Italy and globally, including  MIT in Boston, CNRS in France and the polytechnics of Milan and Turin.

The name of the laboratory across the years

  • founded in 1941 as the Centro Ricerche e Sperimentazioni Chimiche Istituto Guido Donegani
  • until 1966 the institute was part of Montecatini, a chemical company
  • from 1966 to 1974 it was part of Montecatini Edison, a chemical company
  • from 1974 to 1979 it was part of Montedison, a chemical company
  • from 1979 to 1987 it was named Istituto Guido Donegani (part of the Montedison group)
  • from 1988 to 1993 the Istituto Guido Donegani was part of the Enimont group
  • 1993 to 2002 the institute was part of Enichem, a chemical company of the Eni group
  • from 2002 to 2006 it was part of Polimeri Europa, a chemical company of the Eni group
  • from 1 May 2006 to 31 July 2006 it was part of Enitecnologie
  • from 1 August 2006 to 31 December 2007 it was under Eni Refining & Marketing
  • from 1 January 2008 it became the Eni Corporate Research Centre for Non-conventional Energy - Istituto Eni Donegani
  • from 1 September 2014 it became the Eni DR&D Renewable Energy and Environmental R&D Centre
  • from 1 October 2020 it was named Renewable Energy, Magnetic Fusion and Material Science Research Centre
  • since 23 November 2022 it is named Eni, Novara Research Centre

Science to improve industry

All the technologies developed in Novara are designed to be applied in industry by integrating them in our businesses or marketing them, ultimately in order to improve efficiency and sustainability. Solar technologies like organic photovoltaics (OPV) and luminescent solar concentrators (LSC), for example, are sent straight to the building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) sector, a new concept of construction in which every building is electrically independent and self-sufficient, and linked to others to better balance local electricity networks. In these buildings, electricity is generated not only through silicon panels on the roofs of buildings, but also devices placed right within structural elements, like bricks, slates and windows. LSC and OPV can be installed in sound barriers, too. The concentrated solar power (CSP) still designed and developed in Novara makes this technology efficient because it replaces heavy panels of laminated glass with very light, reflective polymer films. Thanks to its simplified design, this system can be easily installed even in less technologically developed areas, because it does not take a specialist to set it up and it requires little material. Equally integrated in our operations is biofixation of carbon dioxide produced at industrial plants from microalgae, while the Eni Hydrocarbon Recovery (e-hyrec) system selectively recovers hydrocarbons (gasoline, diesel and even crude oil), without using surfactants, found in polluted ground water. Finally, Novara also develops passive samples which we can use to identify and define organic pollutants in earth and sediment, allowing for more accurate analysis of specific risks at sites, based on the presence of pollutants. Aware of its utility in the environmental field, we decided not to patent this technology, so that it could be available for all and shared with regulatory bodies for approval.

I VOLTI DI ENI#2 - Energia nanometrica

ENI'S FACES#2-Nanometric energy

I work to make the most of solar energy, using material you can't see with the naked eye. I find it fascinating studying something that produces energy but that you can't see. Every day, while looking for flexible, light solar solutions, I improve myself.

Alessandra Cominetti, research technician at the research centre in Novara
PEOPLE#2 - Piacere, Angelo | Eni Tv

PEOPLE#2-Meet Angelo

From the linear to the circular

The principles of the circular economy are ever more fundamental to the research work in our laboratories in Novara. The Waste-to-Fuel system reuses vegetable and animal waste and transforms them into bio-oil for producing electrical energy or biofuel. Through the same approach, technology based on Fitorimedio uses plants to reclaim land polluted by heavy metals and hydrocarbons, returning them to their natural state. Research into photovoltaic technology, meanwhile, helps produce and store solar energy, limiting the use of fossil fuels and helping decarbonize the planet.