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Collaboration between Eni and MIT in Boston

The strategic collaboration between Eni and MIT began in 2008 and spawned unique technologies in the field of sustainability.

Replicating the energy of the universe

In 2008 the collaboration between Eni and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world's most important scientific institutions began. The agreement was renewed and strengthened in January 2017 at a meeting between the president of MIT, Rafael Reif, and the CEO of Eni, Claudio Descalzi. The results of this joint work, now consolidated, take the form of experimenting with and patenting technologies of excellence in various fields, from renewables and environmental protection to carbon reduction and safety at work. This collaboration involves over 40 researchers, professors and post-graduates, whose support has been fundamental in more than 70 projects. In line with our business model and the 2030 Agenda's Sustainable Development Goals, we are working to take the path together to a low-carbon energy model, built on skills and technologies that can change the way Eni produces and consumes energy. We are searching for the perfect balance between “maximising access to energy and fighting climate change,” as Eni's mission states. 

MIT's renewed efforts in its research are in the same direction and we support them fully, with a view to technological advancement in magnetic confinement fusion energy. This has become a central goal of our collaboration since 2018. We are talking about one of mankind's biggest challenges, and when we achieve it, we will be able to provide unlimited and extremely clean energy. Developing this new energy source will help resolve problems of energy and environment around the world. 

What we are working on is creating a similar process to the sun's fusion, where two nuclei from hydrogen or hydrogen isotopes get near enough to melt into each other. The result is a helium atom, while a part of the mass of the hydrogen atoms is converted into energy. To reproduce this fusion on earth, we must use hydrogen because its nucleus, consisting of one proton, is the smallest carrier of a positive charge. Precisely, three isotopes from this element are used: protium, deuterium (or heavy hydrogen) and tritium, respectively with one, two and three neutrons, linked to a single proton. Although they are the smallest elements in the universe, they can melt into each other and release energy, but only at very high temperatures that can overcome the electrostatic repulsion between the two nuclei, due to their positive charges. Fusion is the primary energy that powers the universe, produced by the sun and other stars. Eni will continue to promote research into magnetic fusion through the MIT Laboratory For Innovations in Fusion Technologies.

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Latest-generation photovoltaics

A great deal of our projects with MIT focus on renewables, particularly solar energy. One example is the development of organic photovoltaic panels (OPV) at the Eni research centre for renewable energy and the environment in Novara. The aim is to create solar panels that use polymers instead of silicon and are more convenient and versatile as a result.

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Organic photovoltaic panels - Research alliances and collaborations | Eni Video Channel

Beyond emissions

A further line of research that we are pursuing with MIT is into methods and technologies for capturing and reusing CO2 within new production cycles, based on circular economy principles. We are part of the Low-Carbon Energy Center, in the MIT Energy Initiative, which develops systems for intercepting, storing and using carbon dioxide, and solutions for storing surplus energy produced at solar plants.

Tool for operational excellence

As an energy company, we have come out top when it comes to oil and gas exploration. It is a massive achievement that has allowed us to discover places like Coral and Zohr. Thanks to our collaboration with MIT, we have managed to develop new solutions that will improve Upstream processes.

  • Enhanced oil recovery: we use nanoemulsions to push oil to producing wells, making recovery more efficient.

  • Petroleum system modelling: by integrating geological, geophysical and experimental data into advanced models, we can more accurately identify geological structures with build-ups of hydrocarbons.

  • Flow assurance: we are experimenting with new coating inside oil and gas pipelines, to limit deposits and the attending chemical additives needed to remove them.

Downstream and Energy Transition

Equally important with regard to reducing carbon dioxide emissions are studies into using methanol ass an energy vector, getting biofuel and forming friction reducers for more sustainable mobility.

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We have made an agreement with CNR and are considering agreements with other Italian and international research institutes to work together on this large-scale project that may well resolve future energy problems.

by Giuseppe Tannoia, Director of Technological Research and Innovation at Eni

Eni and CFS in Boston, Novara and San Donato

In March 2018 we signed a continuous agreement with Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a company born out of MIT, which will allow our company to develop its first plant producing energy through magnetic confinement fusion, from a safe, sustainable, virtually inexhaustible source, with no emissions of greenhouse gases or other pollutants. Taking important steps together towards a low-carbon future.