In Italy, oil and gas major Eni S.p.A. and the national farmers association Confederazione Nazionale Coltivatori Diretti (Coldiretti) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on July 5, 2019, outlining key areas for collaboration within the circular economy.
According to a statement, the agreement will enable Eni and Coldiretti to implement joint initiatives in the following fields:
- using agricultural biomass to produce advanced biofuels for the energy sector, biochemicals, and by-products – also for zootechnical purposes – or inputs for agriculture like biofertilisers;
- researching and promoting crops that can be used as alternative sources for green refineries that do not compete with the food chain; sustainably managing products at the end of their lifespans by minimising the amount of waste generated with regards to the food industry, transport, and packaging;
- generally promoting sustainable agriculture that focuses on optimising energy consumption, protecting environmental factors and promoting the sustainable use of water, as well as using digital tools and renewable technologies.
The two parties will also examine potential initiatives designed to capitalise on industrial synergies and pool facilities, assets and expertise. This will involve, for example;
- looking at integrated agri-industrial systems by producing cooperative models based on types of crops that are suitable for use as raw materials for industrial cycles in the green chemistry sector, enhancing waste and by-products;
- sharing marginal land for crops that can be used to produce advanced biofuels, including biomethane;
- consideration of integrating the recovery of brownfield sites that have been redeveloped for photovoltaic purposes and biomethane production, as well as joint energy needs in the agricultural sphere;
- performing phytoremediation crop studies and trials and look at the possibility of integrating wastewater and purified water from industrial sites with the demand for irrigation systems in the agricultural sphere.
The agreement with Eni is an important strategic step in creating a sustainable economy, the benefits of which can be felt right throughout the sector, starting with farmers and the industrial side of things and rippling right through to the consumer, combining research and innovation with a respect for the environment. The fact that Coldiretti has entered an agreement with a major organisation like Eni is very much in keeping with the current situation in Italy, which has the most environmentally-friendly agricultural industry in Europe, as well as the best food safety record in the world with the basic requirements to switch from a global system that generates waste to a new circular economic model that more accurately reflects the local context and will benefit all concerned, from the farmer to the industrial player and on to the end consumer, as part of a sustainable approach that will offer increasing insight into the future of advanced societies, said Ettore Prandini, President of Coldiretti.
Overseas sustainable development initiatives
Eni and Coldiretti will also consider potential sustainable development initiatives both in Italy and abroad. They will look at projects designed to diversify local economies, notably in Africa, with a view to giving local populations the expertise they need to develop crops using advanced technologies that have less of an impact on the local ecosystem; in the countries in which Eni already operates, they will look at projects designed to support local agricultural networks with a view to developing crops that can be used to produce biofuels or support industrial initiatives.
Finally, the parties will implement various joint education and information initiatives focusing on sustainable development, such as outlining programmes for improving knowledge of the principles of the circular economy aimed at schools and universities; collaboration with the main national and international research centres, taking advantage of the corresponding networks, with a view to trialling innovative crops and adopting appropriate technologies for sustainably managing the agricultural industry; involvement in European research tenders and projects and the Rural Development Programme (PSR, Programma di Sviluppo Rurale).
This is an important step, an agreement with great potential that covers all potential spheres of cooperation with the agricultural sector and creates new long-term opportunities for joint development. It represents a synergistic alliance between the agricultural sphere and the energy sphere with a view to creating a future that is more environmentally friendly and promoting sustainable development. We believe the circular economy to be a strategic part of our efforts to decarbonize our activities – something that we have been working on for some time but have been focusing far more intensely on over the past five years, investing heavily in efficiency, and particularly the production of green energy, as well as, of course, the circular economy, through the transformation of both organic and inorganic matter, minimising and reusing waste and waste materials, whilst at the same time developing research, technologies and industrial initiatives that will represent valuable future lines of business for Eni. But this transformation alone is not enough to guarantee a reduction in future emissions; it is also important that we pool the resources and expertise of all of the main players in the economic and social spheres and adopt a wide-ranging system that also relies on us behaving appropriately on an individual level, and I believe that this agreement is a step in the right direction in this respect, said Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni.