Sustainable solutions drive our business.
Sustainable solutions drive our business.
The latest major milestone we have reached in the fuel sector is Green Diesel – the result of the innovative Ecofining™ technology developed in Eni’s laboratories in collaboration with Honeywell UOP.
This new component is derived from the hydrogenation of vegetable oils and performs better than traditional biodiesels. It is produced in Eni’s Venice biorefinery – the first example in the world of a ‘green’ conversion of a pre-existing refinery. When added to diesel, it gives rise to Eni Diesel +.
The Ecofining™ process transforms raw materials of biological origin into biofuel, using any type of first or second-generation feedstock.
Eni’s Upstream and Downstream Research Centre in San Donato Milanese is also testing new feedstocks derived from fats for biofuel production.
The Eni Renewable Energies and Environmental Research Centre in Novara houses a spectrometry laboratory where the biofuels and oil samples are analysed, rapidly revealing their molecular composition. The instrument used – a spectrometer – contains a 7 Tesla magnet, which produces mass spectra in high resolution and with great accuracy. The values obtained allow compounds with a similar mass value to be separated out and their molecular formula calculated. Automation has halved the time taken to process a mass spectrum.
Raw materials, intermediaries of biological origin and Green Diesel produced using the Ecofining process. “Biorefineries provide a response to the challenge set by European legislators to transform the industry and produce fuels with a reduced environmental impact. Eni’s refinery in Venice has been converted into a biorefinery and the Gela refinery is following soon. Using the EcofiningTM process, bio-feedstocks, such as vegetable oils, waste animal fats and waste recovered cooking oils, can be converted into Green Diesel, which currently makes up 15 per cent of Eni Diesel +.” (Silvia Pavoni)
Plant oils, animal fats or waste oils... the flexibility of the Ecofining™ process used at Eni's Venice biorefinery means different feedstocks can be treated. However, they all have different characteristics, which must be taken into consideration to optimise the process. The biorefinery currently uses certified sustainable palm oil and a percentage of alternative biofeedstocks (used cooking oils and processing by-products) whose quality is guaranteed by analysis in the laboratories of the biorefinery and also the Research Centre in San Donato Milanese. The Research Centre uses standard elementary analysis and chromatography as well as sophisticated spectroscopy techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to study the characteristics of the various commercially available feedstocks (cooking oil, semi-finished animal fats and so on.)
Testing and benchmarking against other fuels sold in Italy have confirmed the excellent properties of Eni Diesel +. Because 15 per cent of the fuel is renewable (the innovative Green Diesel component), Eni Diesel + significantly reduces polluting emissions, cutting unburnt hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide by up to 40 per cent. In addition, a more sustainable production cycle helps to reduce CO2 emissions by an average of 5 per cent. Cold starts are made easier and engine noise is reduced thanks to the high cetane number –over 55, compared to the standard minimum of 51.
Green Diesel is the first significant step towards ever more advanced creations that comply with or even pre-empt the stringent Italian and European legislation on biofuels. Italian legislation requires 10 per cent of fuels on sale in Italy to be made of biofuel by 2020, of which 1.6 per cent must be advanced biofuels. Green Diesel can be added in high percentages to fuels for powering vehicles. Indeed, because it is obtained from the hydrogenation of vegetable oils, it does not contain oxygen, and is a pure hydrocarbon, unlike traditional biodiesel. In addition, the European Commission has set out obligatory sustainability criteria for bio-components, which include protection of the soil, water resources and air, ensuring social sustainability and preventing competition with the food supply chain. Green Diesel ticks all these boxes and, thanks to the flexibility of the Ecofining™ process, it can be obtained from animal fats or waste oil from homes, as well as ‘advanced’ sources such as suitable pre-treated lignocellulosic waste. Eni’s Research and Innovation team is working to implement future European directives on the growing use of advanced biofuels, which will drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a responsibility and a challenge to which our company is fully committed, based on environmentally-friendly decisions.
Thomas, a researcher, describes how Eni Diesel + is created. He works on technologies in the Downstream process and from his laboratory leads us through the production of Green Diesel – a 100 per cent renewable fuel made in the Venice biorefinery using the Ecofining™ process.
Silvia, technical leader, raw materials, fuels and blending characterisation in the Downstream Product Technologies department, tells us about the partnership between Eni and the Italian Navy to test a biofuel made of at least 50 per cent Green Diesel. It involved countless tests in the laboratories of the Research Centre in San Donato Milanese, but also unforgettable professional and personal experiences at sea.
Direct from the engine and emissions test rooms of our Research Centre, Giammarco describes how the new Eni diesel and petrol blends and lubricants take shape, while Corrado explains how Eni Diesel + has led to reductions of up to 40 per cent in emissions for Euro 4, Euro 5 and Euro 6 vehicles.