Eni S.p.A. (Rome, Italy) has announced that its new BTU (Biomass Treatment Unit) plant has begun production and was tested a few days ago. It will enable the Eni biorefinery in Gela, Sicily to use up to 100% of the biomass from used cooking oil and fats from fish and meat processing produced in Sicily (therefore not in competition with the food chain) to create a zero-kilometer circular economy model for the production of biodiesel, bio-naphtha, bioLPG and bio-jet. Castor oil will also be used to feed the Gela biorefinery, thanks to an experimental project to grow castor plants on semi-desert land in Tunisia, thereby completely replacing palm oil, which will no longer be used in Eni’s production processes from 2023.
The plant’s construction began in early 2020 and despite slowdowns caused by the management of activities during the pandemic, the vast majority of the project was completed on schedule. 1.3 million hours were worked, with zero accidents for both Eni people and contract workers.
The launch of the BTU completes the second phase of the transformation of the industrial site, which is solely dedicated to sustainable production processes and is a solid step forwards in the decarbonization and energy transition process that underlies Eni’s strategy, which is committed to achieving the total decarbonization of its products and processes by 2050. Indeed, the 2021-2024 plan provides for the doubling of the production capacity of Eni’s biorefineries to around 2 million tonnes by 2024, and increasing it to 5/6 million tonnes by 2050.
The BTU adds to the technology already in use, which includes Ecofining™, Eni-UOP technology to produce biofuels from biological origin raw materials, Steam Reforming to produce hydrogen and the Waste to Fuel pilot plant, built by Eni Rewind, which transforms the organic fraction of municipal solid waste into bio-oil and bio-methane.
The transformation of the former petrochemical plant in Gela is an example of a regenerative circular economy, which has allowed production cycles based on fossil sources to be converted and is linked with the plan to demolish the plants no longer in use with a view to the production of biofuels and environmental remediation.