Eni Weighs Additional Biofuels Expansions Via Grassroots, Refinery Conversion Projects
11.15.2023 By Tank Terminals - NEWS

November 15, 2023 [Oil & Gas Journal]- Eni SPA has entered an agreement with Saipem SPA to evaluate potential projects designed to further expand subsidiary Eni Sustainable Mobility SPA’s capacity to produce biofuels, including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel.


Eni SPA has entered an agreement with Saipem SPA to evaluate potential projects designed to further expand subsidiary Eni Sustainable Mobility SPA’s capacity to produce biofuels, including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel.

As part of the Nov. 6 agreement, Eni Sustainable Mobility and Saipem—in which Eni holds a 30.5% stake—will study opportunities involving possible construction of new plants—as well as conversion of existing, conventional crude oil refineries—based on the Eni-Honeywell UOP LLC codeveloped proprietary Ecofining technology for flexible processing of 100% biofeedstocks into SAF and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO, or renewable diesel), Eni said.

Designed to support both companies’ broader decarbonization goals to achieve net zero emissions across operations by 2050, the agreement also aligns with Eni’s aims of further transforming its traditional refining system and adding new sites to expand its current 1.65-million tonne/year (tpy) biorefining capacity to more than 5 million tpy by 2030, the operator said.

Additional details regarding the precise scope of the newly signed agreement have yet to be revealed.


Current, proposed biorefining projects

Eni—the first global operator to convert two of its conventional refineries into biorefineries—first began producing biofuels in 2014 by processing vegetable oils and biomass waste into renewable diesel following conversion of its former 80,000-b/d Venice refinery at Porto Marghera, Italy, followed by transformation of the 105,000-b/d Gela refinery on the southern coast of Sicily in 2019.

In 2021, the operator began producing SAF via coprocessing of used cooking oils (UCO) with conventional crude at its 104,000-b/d Taranto refinery in southeast Italy.

In late 2022, Eni also announced its plan to build a new biorefinery at the existing 84,000-b/d refinery in Livorno, Tuscany, on Italy’s northwestern coast, to help secure the site’s future as a production and employment hub, as well as advancing the company’s broader strategy of increasing availability of decarbonized and sustainable products in line with the global energy transition.

Scheduled for startup in 2025, the Livorno transformation project will involve construction of three new plants, including:

  • A biogenic feedstock pretreatment unit to transform waste raw materials, residues, and waste resulting from the processing of vegetable products and oils from crops that do not compete with the food chain into renewable feedstock.
  • A 500,000-tpy plant for production of SAF based on Ecofining process technology.
  • A plant for producing hydrogen from methane gas.

In its third-quarter 2023 earnings presentation on Oct. 27, Eni confirmed it will complete an expansion at its Venice biorefinery in 2024 that will lift the site’s current 360,000-tpy capacity to 560,000 tpy. The capacity expansion at Venice will result from the addition of a new steam reformer as well as an upgrade of the site’s Ecofining technology, according to a Sept. 14 presentation from the operator.

Eni also told investors the first phase of a separate project to enhance the Venice biorefinery’s flexibility to process a wider array of biomass feedstocks is scheduled for completion by yearend 2023, with Phase 2 of that project due to be completed in 2027.

Additional projects involving implementation of new degumming sections in renewable feedstock pretreatment units to expand HVO diesel and SAF production are also underway at the Venice and Gela biorefineries, both of which are due for startup between 2024-25. The Gela project will increase that biorefinery’s production capacity by 40,000 tpy to 740,000 tpy, the operator said.

In September, Eni said the Gela refinery would also begin producing SAF by third-quarter 2024.

The Italian biorefining investments join Eni’s expanded global partnerships aimed at expanding production of renewable fuels, including St. Bernard Renewables LLC—the operator’s 50-50 joint venture with PBF Energy Inc.—which began producing renewable diesel in June from a new 1.1-million tpy biorefinery co-located at PBF Energy subsidiary Chalmette Refining LLC’s 185,000-b/d dual-train coking refinery in Chalmette, St. Bernard Parish, La.

In September, Eni Sustainable Mobility and partner LG Chem Ltd. also launched preliminary studies to evaluate the potential for jointly developing and operating a grassroots biorefinery to be built at LG Chem’s integrated petrochemical complex in Daesan, Chungcheong Province, South Korea, 80 km southwest of Seoul.

The proposed Daesan biorefinery would use the Ecofining technology for flexible processing of about 400,000 tpy of renewable materials for production of SAF, HVO diesel, and bionaphtha, with Eni to supply the planned project sustainable feedstock that includes mainly waste and residues from the processing of vegetable oils, and UCO, but also vegetable oils derived from drought-resistant crops in degraded, semi-arid, or abandoned soils not in competition with the food chain via the operator’s existing global supply chain.

With final investment decision (FID) on the possible project by 2024, the Daesan biorefinery, if approved, would be completed by 2026, Eni said in October.

In mid-December 2022, Eni said it also had entered an agreement with Euglena Co. Ltd. of Japan and Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) to jointly study the potential for developing and operating a biorefinery in the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) in southern Peninsular Malaysia, one of the largest integrated refinery and petrochemical developments in the southeast Asia Pacific.

To be located adjacent to Petronas’ existing 300,000-b/d integrated conventional refinery and petrochemical installations in PIC, the planned biorefinery would have a flexible configuration to maximize production of SAF, as well as HVO diesel for on-road vehicles, diesel-powered trains, and marine transportation, based on fluctuating market conditions.

As currently proposed, the biorefinery would be equipped with Ecofining technology to process about 650,000 tpy of raw, renewable materials to produce up to 12,500 b/d of biofuels, namely SAF, HVO, and bionaphtha.

With FID due by yearend, Eni said in October that the proposed Pengerang project—if approved—could reach startup by 2025.


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