Italian oil and gas company Eni’s biorefinery plant in Gela, Italy, is due to start commercial operations at the end of June/beginning of July, the ACI Oleofuels 2019 conference in Italy heard on 5 June.

The Gela plant would produce 600,000-700,000 tonnes of renewable diesel or hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), with 80% of its feedstock comprising palm oil and 20% from waste feedstocks such as used cooking oil (UCO), the conference heard.

Giacomo Rispoli, executive vice president, portfolio management and licensing at ENI, said that together with ENI’s other biorefinery in Venice – which began operations in 2014 – the company’s combined renewable diesel production would total some 1M tonnes.

ENI said the company was working towards using less palm oil in light of the recast of the European Energy Directive (RED II) and its delegated act defining palm oil as a feedstock with a high risk of indirect land use change (ILUC).

In the last two years, it had looked at waste feedstocks such as UCO and shea olein, installing a Desmet Ballestra pre-treatment unit in 2018 at its Venice biorefinery to deal with more difficult feedstocks which were less stable and more varied in quality.

There were also problems relating to the collection of UCO and the differing quality of each batch of UCO collected.

Importing UCO was also problematic as Italian law did not allow the import of ‘waste’, and an exemption or special permit would be needed to import UCO.

Eni’s proprietary renewable diesel technology, licensed from Honeywell UOP, uses hydrogen to deoxygenate a feedstock, with a second stage isomerisation step, to produce renewable diesel, as well as naptha, jet fuel and LPG.

Rispoli said the Venice biorefinery had the capacity to increase production but would need more hydrogen for the process.

The company had been planning to build a new steam refiner in 2022 to produce hydrogen from natural gas but was now looking at producing hydrogen from waste such as non-recyclable plastic in order to be more sustainable and carbon neutral.