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Low-carbon transport takes off

On the path to decarbonisation, Eni's range stretches to the sky.

by Alessandra Pierro
5 min read
by Alessandra Pierro
5 min read

The decarbonization of the transport sector, which accounts for around 24% of CO2 emissions, is a key challenge within the context of the energy transition and is one of the major objectives of Eni’s roadmap towards carbon neutrality. As per the Paris Agreement commitments, speeding up this process means developing sources of renewable energy that can minimise direct CO2 emissions. By its very nature, this transformation will have to involve every aspect of the production chain and can only be achieved by reducing waste and finding ways to reuse waste materials, as well as through ideas and innovative technologies designed to make products that are both sustainable and effective. 

Towards Carbon Air Transport

Eni's contribution to improving sustainable mobility does not stop at the land transport sector – it also encompasses the aviation sector. Air transport is crucial for growth and development today, but it is also one of the sectors that poses the greatest concern in emissions terms. The aviation sector is responsible for 2.5%  of global fossil CO2 emissions (825 million tonnes of CO2 per year). And, due to the increase in travellers and commercial traffic, the sector is among the fastest growing sources of emissions: in the last twenty years emissions from aviation have grown by almost 130%, and in 2050 they are expected to increase at a rate 7 to 10 times higher than in 1990. While the pandemic may have played a limited role in reducing emissions, it is also the case that the debate on clean skies is beginning to move up the climate agenda, with initiatives ranging from the 2019 European Green Deal and Cop26 to the recent ReFuel EU Aviation proposal, part of the “Fit for 55” package, and the USA’s “SAF Grand Challenge” Memorandum of Understanding.

There are a number of solutions that could help cut emissions further, ranging from aircraft restyling to engine improvements, although replacing aircraft only seems a viable solution over the long term; in the short to medium term, hybrid solutions will inevitably be the easiest to implement. While we wait for advances in hydrogen technologies and e-fuels, which over time will also be suitable for air transport, the production of sustainable fuel represents our most practical and immediate hope for the decarbonization of the aviation sector.  To this end, Eni has started production of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) from waste and residues from vegetable oils. The Taranto refinery will be the first to produce SAF, to be followed by the Livorno refinery.  The fuel comes exclusively from raw waste materials such as used cooking oil or animal fats. Eni Biojet, which will be produced at Livorno and Gela, is made from 100% biogenic components and can form up to 50% of a blend with conventional jet fuel. When production in the Gela bio-refinery (planned for 2024) begins, it could meet the Italian market’s potential requirement for the following year. 

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Innovation and partnerships to help sustainable mobility

However, policies alone are not enough to drive a step change in the energy transition. Real technological innovation must also take place. And, in this respect, Eni’s past and present projects all focus on one objective: the decarbonization of all company products and processes by 2050, including for the transport sector.

At the same time, when the goal is such a large one, it is more important than ever to join forces. As an African proverb says: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. That’s why development initiatives require organisations to expand their scope beyond their own operations and establish alliances with partners capable of supporting long-term actions. This is also the background to the hydrogen mobility project carried out in partnership with Air Liquide. Its aim is to join forces and invest in infrastructure to develop the hydrogen supply chain in Italy for the heavy and light mobility market. Similarly, the collaboration with the Aeroporti di Roma group (a precursor to a series of agreements with leading operators in transport infrastructure management), aims to create synergies that encourage the development and increasing use of sustainable fuels in the mobility and aviation sector.

In our current age, transport systems will have to be ever more responsive to economic and social demands.

The decarbonization of particularly energy-intensive industries such as aviation and heavy goods vehicles is therefore a major challenge. Tackling it, however, will be a decisive step towards guaranteeing our continued freedom of movement and relations without undermining a set of values that are as essential to our future as to our present.

This prospect is getting closer and closer thanks to technology. 

The author: Alessandra Pierro

A degree in Philosophy, she is a freelance copyeditor and content curator.