Eni’s Circular Economy: Giving Waste a New Lease of Life

This Italian energy company is spearheading sustainability efforts by turning waste products into reusable energy in innovative ways.

At home in Venice, a family enjoys a plate of mouth-watering polenta e schie, a local delicacy of tiny shrimp on a bed of creamy polenta. In the kitchen a pan of cooking oil is cooling on the stove, as well as the shrimp; it has been used to fry calamari, chicken, and even French fries. Now it is time for a change. The used oil is poured carefully into a container where it awaits collection before beginning a new lifecycle as bio fuel.

It is part of a project by Eni, one of the world’s leading energy suppliers, who believe it is time to rethink our relationship with waste, including cooking oil. The single-use society that is exhausting our planet’s natural resources is also polluting and damaging the environment. Eni is convinced that there is a better way, and they have made a commitment to reduce waste through adopting the circular economy.

The circular economy moves beyond the mind-set of single-use products. It keeps resources in use for as long as possible before recovering and reusing their raw materials. It is a system that delivers both sustainability and reduced pollution, making it a real win-win for the environment.

Underpinning Eni’s commitment to the circular economy is their investment of about €5 billion into green conversions, research, and reclamation. This has funded some innovative and inspirational projects that are helping to reduce emissions and prove the viability and value of the circular economy.

One such project is Waste-to-Fuel that is being tested at Eni’s Renewable Energy and Environmental R&D Centre. Eni has developed technology that transforms normally non-recyclable waste—everything from food leftovers to the sludge from sewage treatment plants—into a bio-oil that can be used to make energy and biofuel. Through a process called liquefaction, the energy is concentrated almost entirely in the bio-oil so that a single tonne of organic matter produces up to 150kg of bio-oil. This can ultimately be used to power homes, cars, and even ships.

Eni has taken the circular economy a step further with its Green Refinery project in Venice. This pioneering initiative has recycled a conventional oil refinery into the world’s first bio-refinery. After an extensive refurbishment with specially developed proprietary technology, it is now producing high-quality biofuels from organic raw materials, including waste cooking oil collected from the homes of Eni employees. At the technological heart of the process is Ecofining, a system that transforms the purified waste oil into Eni Diesel +, a product that is 15 percent renewable and is being used to power the city’s ferries.

Together, the Green Refinery and Waste-to-Fuel projects are helping to kick-start the circular economy that Eni believes can play a crucial role in preserving our environment. With the world’s demand for energy continuing to grow, it seems we can either power down or we can power smarter by literally turning waste into energy. Through inspiration, innovation, and investment, Eni is helping to keep potential pollutants out of the environment by making waste useful as a sustainable source of power for the planet.

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