Le emissioni ed i cambiamenti climatici

Capture, storage and reuse of CO₂

Our projects to capture carbon dioxide then store it forever or reuse it in innovative ways.

Technology

We have several ongoing projects in the world of CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage ) and CCU (Carbon Capture and Utilisation) technology. under the supervision of the Research Centre of San Donato Milanese and the Renewable Energy and Environmental R&D Centre in Novara.

In relation to the technologies, with regards to the capturing stage, we are developing systems that use ionic liquids that are more efficient than conventional amine-based liquids.

With regard to storage, we are optimising all stages of the process, from transport to fluid-rock interaction to field monitoring systems, in order to make the technology more efficient and facilitate its large-scale application. Operationally, we aim to create one of the world's largest CO₂ storage hubs and the first in the Mediterranean off the coast of Ravenna. The conversion of depleted fields in the Adriatic Sea, which will no longer produce natural gas, into exclusive permanent CO₂ storage sites and the re-use of a small part of the existing infrastructure will provide a rapid and concrete solution for reducing emissions in the Italian industrial sector at very competitive prices. CCS is, in particular, the only readily available option for so-called hard-to-abate sectors such as cement, steel, chemical plants, etc., where a significant proportion of carbon dioxide emissions are linked to the industrial process and therefore cannot be avoided by means of electrification or renewables, for example. At an international level, we are also partners in two CCS projects being set up in the UK: HyNet North West, in the Liverpool Bay area on the north-west coast, and Net Zero Teesside, on the north-east coast. Outside Europe, we are also assessing the feasibility of a CO₂ capture project in the United Arab Emirates at Ghasha and is studying a CCS application in Libya, for the Bahr Essalam project. Furthermore, we are looking at opportunities to develop CCS projects in Australia and East Timor. 

The range of technologies we are developing for the utilization phase is more various. A first line of research relates to the ultra-intensified bio-fixation of CO₂ through the cultivation of microalgae in LED photobioreactors with photosynthesis optimised wavelengths. Another technology involves a process of CO2 mineralisation with natural mineral phases and the use of the products obtained during the making of cement, which we patented in April 2021. A third area of research looks at ways to use CO₂ in the production of methanol, an energy vector with huge potential. One larger-scale project in particular also aims to capture CO2 directly on board vehicles.

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ALBERT#2 - CO₂ as a resource

Context

Capturing CO2 for permanent storage or reusing it in other production cycles is one of the key ways of reducing its concentrations in the atmosphere and limiting the increase in the average global temperature to within two degrees Celsius, as required by the Paris Agreements on climate change. The CCS and CCU technologies are part of our decarbonization strategy, together with the right mix of renewables and natural gas, energy savings generated by increased efficiency and the protection and conservation of forests. Developing the corresponding plants on an industrial scale also has the advantage of generating a virtuous circle through the principles of the circular economy, with positive effects on overall growth and development. One additional benefit would stem from the possibility of using the surplus electricity production typical of generating energy from renewable sources, and from solar and wind power in particular, to power the capturing, storage and reuse of CO2.    

Technological challenge

The main difficulty facing any method of capturing and reusing CO2 is the fact that the carbon dioxide molecule is the most stable of the carbon compounds, meaning that breaking it down or binding it to any other substance always requires a lot of energy. There is no single solution for doing away with this constraint imposed by thermodynamics, but research has been studying those reaction pathways that consume the lowest possible amounts of energy. With this in mind, we are focusing our efforts on ionic fluids - a proprietary technology that makes it possible to intercept CO2 but with lower emission and energy consumption levels than conventional amine-based methods. We are simultaneously conducting research alongside the MIT with a view to developing high-efficiency electrochemical capture systems. The chemical reduction of CO2 to methanol using hydrogen produced by electrolysing water using renewable electricity is another of the challenges we are facing; indeed, methanol produced in this way can be reused to produce energy or used directly as a component of automotive fuel, thus reducing the carbon footprint of the entire process.

Come catturare e valorizzare la C02

How to capture and valorize CO₂

Industrial integration

Thanks to CCS and CCU technologies, CO2 can be transformed from a cost into an opportunity. This is especially true for the energy industry, which has the technical and organisational expertise to implement such large-scale projects efficiently, quickly and safely. With regard to storage, in particular, the presence of depleted gas fields and decommissioned assets at the Ravenna offshore site offers us a unique opportunity to create a large hub for storing CO2 generated by onshore production activities, such as Enipower's combined cycle gas power plants. These are already based on the technology that currently has the lowest emissions in the thermoelectric power sector, and will be able to further reduce their emission levels and produce decarbonized energy to accelerate the transition of the entire Italian energy system towards sustainable energy. But the Ravenna project does not only aim to reduce Eni's emissions; indeed, by combining our broad knowledge of reservoir dynamics with new technologies, we aim to build the leading centre for carbon dioxide capture and storage for Italy and the Mediterranean in the Middle Adriatic. We notably aim to offer a concrete solution for all of Italy's strategic industrial sectors, such as cement, steel, paper and chemicals, which generate around 20% of Italy's emissions and for which there are currently no viable technological alternatives that could be quickly implemented. Part of the project’s expected initial 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year will be reserved for these industrial sectors, which, thanks to the availability of large storage capacities (500 million tonnes), can then increase, perhaps even rapidly, in the following years to over 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year. With regard to activities in the UK, in October 2020 we obtained a licence from the UK Oil and Gas Authority for the Hynet North West project, with the aim of building a storage hub in Liverpool Bay. This project also involves reusing Eni's depleted offshore fields, with Eni taking operational responsibility for CO₂ storage and transport activities, in order to reduce the emissions generated by the area's major industrial hub, where a major hydrogen production site will also be built, by 3 million tonnes/year. The project is scheduled to start in 2025, with the possibility of expanding the capture capacity at a later date. Also in the UK, we have signed a cooperation agreement with other partners involved in the Net Zero Teesside (Eni 20%) and North Endurance Partnership (Eni 16.7%) CCS projects. The integration of the two projects will enable the decarbonization of the Teesside industrial area in the north-east of the country. Here, the start-up of operations is planned for 2026, with an initial capture and storage capacity of 4 million tonnes/year of CO₂.

Environmental impact

Whilst they may differ slightly from one another, one thing that all CCS and CCU technologies have in common is their ability to transform a limitation into a resource, creating opportunities for economic growth and environmental sustainability by reducing CO2 emissions. In the Ravenna area, for example, we could offer a significant opportunity for the local area and the engineering and mechanical companies there, which until now, have been working in gas production. And that’s not all. By integrating onshore production facilities with the nearby offshore CCS project, many more companies would be given the opportunity to decarbonize their activities. This would create a zero carbon industrial cluster which, as such, could attract new investment and generate new employment opportunities in a technologically advanced sector.

Generally speaking, what these systems do is capture the greenhouse gas generated by industry and other forms of human activity or found in the atmosphere and introduce it into a new production cycle,  that enhances it and adds value. The benefits of this in the case of CCU are twofold, since carbon dioxide then becomes a “raw material” that is used in various virtuous processes pertaining to the circular economy.  Furthermore, these processes can be used to help produce electricity from renewable sources.

International support for carbon capture, storage and reuse

CCS and CCU projects are also considered key to energy decarbonization by international organisations such as the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). In 2019, OGCI launched the CCUS KickStarter initiative to help lower costs, demonstrate the positive impact of pro-CCS and CCU policies and attract widespread commercial investment in the field. Today, CCUS KickStarter has seven international CCS hubs and four of them are expected to be operational by 2025. One of these is Net Zero Teesside in the UK, in which Eni is also involved. In addition, in September 2020, the IEA published the CCUS in Clean Energy Transitions, in which it stated that CCS and CCU will be crucial to achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions and called for more investment in these technologies, which are now considered to be both reliable and safe.

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