At a pioneering plant in Sicily whose experimental phase is due to conclude next year, Italian energy giant Eni is using carbon dioxide and solar energy to grow microalgae to make a new bio-oil used in the production of green diesel.
At the experimental carbon dioxide biofixation plant in the city of Ragusa, Eni is using sunlight and CO2 produced by its partner EniMed's oil and gas wells to make a seaweed flour from which the new bio-oil is extracted that will replace palm oil as the fuel in Eni's bio-refineries. (Video)
Once fully operational, the Ragusa plant will be capable of capturing around 80 tonnes a year of C02 and of making some 40 tonnes of seaweed flour annually that can be used in products for the food supplements market as well as to derive bio-oil, according to Eni.
The bioalgae oil will be used as at a new bio-refinery in the nearby Sicilian city of Gela, one of the few plants worldwide that can fully process 'unconventional' and 'advanced' raw materials, said Eni.
The bio-oil derived from seaweed flour is classified as advanced, because it is derived from crops that are not in competition with agricultural food crops, Eni said.
The technology used in the bio-oil's production is based on renewable energy sources and forms a unique example of a circular economy. But it could also have applications in other industrial plants that emit CO2 - with even more important environmental benefits, Eni noted.
Eni has invested around four million euros to plan, design and build the experimental plant, a project developed by Enimed in cooperation with Ragusa's Renewable Energy Company (CER), which hosts the plant. A significant part of the investment has benefited Sicilian firms.
The plant's building and operation phase have been made possible thanks to the multidisciplinary activity of an integrated group that involves Eni upsteam, downsteam and renewable energy research centres, as well as staff from EniMed, the company said.