San Donato Milanese (MI) - Eni’s new BTU (Biomass Treatment Unit) plant has begun production and was tested a few days ago. It will enable the Eni biorefinery in Gela 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-kilometre 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.

The Gela project

  • converting the traditional refinery into a biorefinery
  • construction of the first Waste to Fuel pilot plant
  • installing solar panels
  • environmental remediation and regeneration for new production activities
  • measures to support the territory: projects involving local schools, the MacchitellaLAB project and other initiatives
  • Upstream activities: hydrocarbon production, fully exploiting the potential of fields already in operation, maintenance of facilities and wells in production and the Argo-Cassiopea project
  • building a Safety Competence Centre and Safety Training Centre

All the petrochemical plants built in Gela since 1962 have closed down. The biorefinery, one of the most innovative plants in Europe, has been in operation since August 2019. The plant has a processing capacity of up to 750,000 tonnes a year and will be able to treat larger and larger quantities of used vegetable oil, animal fat, algae and by-products to produce high-quality biofuels.

It all began on 6 November 2014, when the Ministry of Economic Development, the Region of Sicily, the Municipality of Gela, the trade unions, Confindustria Centro Sicilia and Eni, together with its subsidiaries in the area (EniMed, Gela Refinery, Eni Rewind and Versalis), signed a Protocol for a new development plan and the relaunch of economic and industrial activity, amounting to a maximum financial commitment of €2.2 billion. To date, over €1.275 billion have been invested in the territory through environmentally, socially and economically sustainable investments aimed at developing the concept of circular economy, going beyond the objectives set by the 2014 Protocol in terms of the employment of direct personnel and the local supply chain. We operate the following activities in Gela, in addition to the Safety Competence Center and the Safety Training Center.

Gela biorefinery

The biorefinery in Gela was launched in August 2019. The BTU plant for the treatment of biomass is currently being built and will be able to treat larger and larger quantities of second and third-generation raw materials to produce high-quality biofuels as of 2021. The launch of the Gela plant is a further step along the path to decarbonizing our activities.

Eni Rewind activities at Gela: environmental remediation and Waste to Fuel development

Eni Rewind is Eni’s environmental services company that works in accordance with the principles of circular economy to recover industrial land, water and waste resources through efficient and sustainable reclamation projects. It has so far spent €170 million in Gela on the demolition of decommissioned plants and on monitoring, safety and security and the reclamation of aquifers and land. The company is also involved in the development of plants for processing organic urban waste, which, through the application of Eni’s proprietary Waste to Fuel technology, will produce bio-oil and biomethane, as well as recovering water for industrial purposes. The pilot plant built to test the technology in the field has been in operation in Gela since December 2018.

In March 2021, we began work, through Eni Rewind, on the demolition of decommissioned plants, which will help free up areas for new industrial activities and reduce the visual impact of the former petrochemical plant. Work is already under way at an estimated cost of more than €25 million. Demolition of the SNOX chimney, the G300 thermal unit and the Coking 1 and 2 drill structures will be completed this year. In order to promote the circular economy, preference will be given to interventions that ensure the recovery and future reuse of materials. So far, almost 2,900 tonnes of scrap metal (mainly iron, stainless steel and aluminium) have been sent for recycling, along with electrical motors and cables, which can be given a second life and used for civil and industrial purposes.