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New technologies for sustainable transport

Eni is playing a leading role in decarbonizing vehicles thanks to its holistic approach to sustainable transport.

by Eni Staff
13 min read
byEni Staff
13 min read

Sustainable transport

About 24% of global CO2 emissions come from the transport sectors. In Europe and the United States, transport accounts for almost 30% of emissions. Promoting sustainable transport means reducing greenhouse gases, which cause climate change, and taking on one of the world's biggest challenges, protecting the environment. In 2015 the United Nations organisations approved the 2030 Agenda, an action programme setting out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for everyone in government, business and society to follow, to achieve sustainable growth from an economic, social and environmental point of view. Eni's mission now is the same as that in 2016, but with the addition of the Sustainable Development Goals. Through this combination, we will meet global challenges by actively supporting a socially fair energy transition, to preserve our planet and provide efficient, sustainable energy resources for all.

Eni is playing an active leading role in the long-term strategy for carbon neutrality, promoting a holistic approach to a technology neutral sustainable mobility, aiming for a combination of innovative solutions which guarantee minimal environmental impact and increased efficiency for the consumer.

The circular economy is a powerful driving force in the development of new sustainable mobility solutions, because it sees scrap and waste used in new mobility products with a reduced environmental impact.

“At Eni, we want to seize the opportunities unleashed by a transformation based on technological innovation and aimed at a new development paradigm. Opportunities like these enable us to create value for stakeholders and shareholders through a systemic approach that integrates sustainability organically and makes it part of the business.”

by Claudio Descalzi

Our biofuels

Biofuel, unlike traditional fuel, does not come from fossil fuel, but biomass from vegetables. In 2014 Eni added to its traditional business when it started producing a biocomponent for diesel by transforming vegetable oils into hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), which, when added to diesel, becomes Eni Diesel +, Eni's premium fuel. Eni's research also includes circular economy projects for using biomass, waste and rubbish as new feedstock for producing HVO biofuel instead of vegetable oil. Used cooking oil is a clear example of how the circular economy can help develop solutions for sustainable transport, starting with waste and refuse. In fact, properly collected, UCO can be used as an alternative feedstock to the vegetable oils processed in bio-refineries when producing the HVO biofuel to be added to diesel to make Eni Diesel +. About 50% of the UCO collected in Italy is processed at Eni’s bio-refinery near Venice, and will soon be processed at its plant in Gela too, thanks to Eni's partnerships with the conosortia CONOE, RenOils and Utilitalia and the agreements it has signed with several multi-utility companies in charge of waste collection and processing. With a view to environmental sustainability, Eni promotes not only waste reuse, but also the use of marginal land. Eni’s Tunisian experiment, begun in 2019, of cultivating castor oil in pre-desert soils which cannot be used for food crops, came to an end last year. It allows for the cultivation of a biomass suitable for Eni bio-refineries and therefore for the production of biocomponents for diesel. Following the positive results of the experiment, Eni began assessing whether it could move on to large-scale cultivation. This would provide feedstock for the Gela bio-refinery with a more sustainable short supply chain. To this end, a collaboration agreement was signed with the Tunisian company SNDP last December.

Transport solutions and tests

The circular economy represents an incredible driving force for the development of new sustainable transport solutions as it makes it possible to effectively use scrap and waste in new transport products with a reduced environmental impact.

Testing in Venice

Venice is the site of an example of the circular economy. The oil used by its citizens to fry their food is delivered to a separate collection service, then transformed into the biofuel that powers the public water transport services. From 1 April to 31 October 2018, all AVM/Actv water services used the new fuel, whose vegetable component is produced at the bio-refinery at Porto Marghera, which turns raw material of biological origin, including used cooking oil and animal fats, into biofuel.

Testing in Turin

Six hundred and fifty buses from the Gruppo Torinese Trasporti (GTT) fleet, normally fed with traditional diesel, used the new biofuel with HVO from July to October 2017. The test conducted in the city of Turin demonstrated the economic and environmental advantages of using biofuel.

Completing the urban transport circle

Circularity is essential to overcoming the old linear development models based solely on energy and natural resource-intensive production and consumption. We at Eni look at the future as an opportunity for change, a sustainable change, based on product and process innovation. Sustainable raw materials, reuse, recycling and recovery, and extended lifespans are the three pillars on which our efforts will be based.

We are therefore also promoting the circular economy in the world of public transport and multi-utility services, with a two-part strategy: one part focuses on promoting the use of our biofuels in public transport, while the other fosters the creation of networks for the collection of cooking oils, refining them into a tank-ready product. In recent years, more and more Italian cities have chosen biofuel with HVO (hydrogenated vegetable oil) to fuel local buses and dustcarts, and more and more multi-utility companies are committed to creating a widespread system for the collection of used vegetable and frying oils. In the long term, we are also working on industrial agreements to extract biomethane, bio-oil and hydrogen from the different fractions of solid urban waste.

One of our greatest achievements in terms of biofuels is represented by what we have done in Gela with the Waste to Fuel system, where we produce biofuel using organic solid urban waste from cooking. The first of its type in the world, it was designed, developed and patented at Eni's Renewable Energy and Environmental R&D Centre in Novara. The pilot plant can treat around 700kg of OFMSW per day, obtaining from 3% to 16% of bio-oil.

Gas for transport, a sector in transition: CNG, LNG and bio-methane

Methane is the most technologically mature of the alternative fuels with a low environmental impact. It is at hand thanks to a distribution network of around 1,300 sales points and a consolidated market in Italy. Eni uses a circular approach to recover biomass and waste from the agricultural and livestock chain and sets up plants to produce biomethane. It aims to promote the entire biomethane supply chain and to this end has made collaborative agreements with Consorzio Italiano Biogas, Coldiretti and Confagricoltura, and talks with biogas producers to encourage them to make biomethane through anaerobic digestion of biomass, farm waste and the organic solid urban waste. By strengthening its distribution network, Eni will play an important role in getting compressed natural gas (CNG) used more widely in cars and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in HGVs. At the time of writing, the Eni network has about 2019 sales points (around 200 of them actually owned by Eni) supplying methane gas and five sales points (two of them owned) supplying liquid methane. Over the next four years, i.e. 2020–2023, new sales points supplying methane (around 50 in partnership with Snam Rete Gas) and 40 new LNG sales points (for expanding the HGV segment) are planned, in addition to the two already in existence.

A new agreement for sustainable transport

Eni signed a national agreement with Inalca and Havi Logistics in January 2020 for the production and use of biomethane for haulage made from agri-food waste in the meat sector. The initiative aims to promote a new energy chain to support the transition of transport towards a low-impact transport system based entirely on renewable sources. Another element of Eni's integrated strategy for sustainable transport, which aims to develop all potential avenues in terms of decarbonization.

Enjoy vehicle sharing

Enjoy is Eni's car-sharing service, which aims to reduce the number of private vehicles, lower traffic congestion and improve the quality of life for people living and working in cities. Enjoy began in Milan in December 2013 and now operates there and in Rome, Florence, Turin and Bologna, with a fleet of about 2,500 Fiat 500s (Euro 6) and about 100 Fiat Doblòs (some of them running on methane). The service is entirely managed through an app and is based on a "free-floating" model which lets you pick up and drop off the cars in any place within the area covered by the service. In addition, biodegradable products and dry-cleaning are used to clean cars (with an average saving of 300 litres of water). At the end of 2019, Enjoy had around 950,000 subscribers (and was getting an average of 400 new ones per day).

Electric transport à la Eni

Eni has a four-year programme to install electric charging points at around 350 service stations. The development plan for electric charging points will see super-fast (350 kW) charging stations set up on roads with a lot of traffic. These will provide up to 60 miles of driving power in just 5 minutes, thanks to our agreement with Ionity, a joint venture between some of the top car makers. In city centres the plan calls for the installation of fast electric charging posts (50 kW). Eni gas e luce, which operates in the retail and business market for gas, electricity and energy solutions, has also chosen to offer new solutions to support electric mobility, which can be customised according to customers’ needs. Thanks to E-start, for example, the company aims to provide charging infrastructure to both houses and blocks of flats, as well as public facilities and offices. In addition, Eni gas e luce offers customisable solutions for electric transport, based on customers’ needs, with charging points and services. These range from wallboxes for houses to posts for business customers.

Eni and Toyota: an agreement on hydrogen to reduce emissions

Hydrogen is an energy vector that offers many opportunities in the short-to-medium term for reducing emissions from transport. Vehicles run on fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, guaranteeing charging and driving times similar to those in traditional vehicles run on internal combustion. As part of its work in sustainable hydrogen transport, in 2019 Eni signed two partnership agreements with Toyota, which will make fuel cell cars available for hydrogen transport testing. The agreements also provide for the construction by Eni of two new service stations, which will supply hydrogen at 700 bar, one in the San Donato Milanese area and the other in the metropolitan city of Venice. Eni has also signed an agreement with the council of the metropolitan city of Venice for the development of an integrated and experimental hydrogen platform. Engineering research is being carried out at Eni’s refinery near Venice into a high-temperature gasification plant for producing hydrogen from Plasmix (non-recyclable plastic waste) and secondary solid fuel (SSF).

Eni employees and initiatives for sustainable mobility

Eni has come up with a plan for sustainable transport for its employees, which includes a series of actions aimed at reducing emissions from home-work travel, such as: • Encouraging car sharing. • Local public transport passes for employees with advantageous deals. • A company shuttle bus doing about 350 trips a day between Eni’s offices in Rome, Milan, Novara, Ravenna and Vibo Valentia and the nearest public transport hubs. Eni also encourages other ways of contributing indirectly to sustainable mobility, like new forms of work, such as working from home and using videoconferencing systems to reduce travel.

Rubbish makes circularity go round

Besides the above research projects into biofuel and hydrogen, Eni is investing in new fuels produced from waste. In this ambit, a project is under way at the refinery in Livorno to produce methanol by means of high-temperature oxygen gasification of solid urban waste, specifically non-recyclable plastic waste (Plasmix, a mix of currently non-recyclable plastics and secondary solid fuel). The process is based on the production of a syngas from carbon-based material. Syngas, thus produced, is first purified and can then be used to synthesise methanol or produce of pure hydrogen. Methanol produced using waste as a raw material could be considered a “recycled carbon fuel” under the EUU directive on renewables “RED II”, and is therefore comparable to a biofuel. It can be used in gasoline if transformed into MTBE, or in an experimental gasoline blend with a high alcohol content together with bioethanol (A20 gasoline). With the FCA group, Eni has developed a new fuel, A20, based on a mix of 15% methanol and 5% bioethanol. This was tested for 13 months, in five Enjoy Fiat 500s, which were hired about 9,000 times and driven over a total of 30,000 miles with no problems. Waste-to-Fuel technology was also created to convert the organic portion of solid urban waste into bio-oil.

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03 June 2019