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Eni Kenya launches first vegetable oil production

Eni Kenya launches first vegetable oil production
The Makueni agri-hub in Kenya has the capacity to produce up to 30 000 tonnes of vegetable oil from various oilseeds and nuts while providing animal feed and bio-fertilizer (photo courtesy Eni).

Eni Kenya, a subsidiary of Italy-headed oil, gas, and energy major Eni S.p.A., has announced that it has completed the construction of the oilseed collection and pressing plant (agri-hub) in Makueni, Kenya, and started production of the first vegetable oil for use as feedstock in its biorefineries.

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According to Eni, the initiative in Kenya represents the world’s first integrated project to bring Africa into the vertical biorefinery supply chain by providing income opportunities and market access to thousands of farmers operating in degraded land areas.

Eni completed the construction of the oilseed collection and pressing plant (agri-hub) in Makueni, Kenya, and started production of the first vegetable oil that will be exported to Italy as feedstock for its biorefineries.

The first agri-hub will have an installed capacity of 15 000 tonnes with an expected production of 2 500 tonnes in 2022.

This project embodies all the pillars of Eni’s approach to sustainability. First, carbon neutrality, as biorefining is an important element in our path to zero emissions by 2050. Second, the operational excellence, as we completed the work on schedule, one year after the agreement with the Kenyan government and six months after the shipyard’s start-up, in total safety, with more than 200 000 hours worked without any accidents. Third, the social development, as we are creating opportunities for the local community: we have involved 25 000 farmers and employed up to 200 people a day in the construction of the center. In our vertical integration model, seed cultivation is handled by local farmers, thus promoting their access to markets and ensuring access to land, said Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni.

The agri-hub will process castor oilseeds, croton nuts, and cottonseeds to extract vegetable oil.

These are sustainable, agri-feedstock raw materials that do not compete with the food supply chain because they come from crops that are resistant to aridity and suitable for growing on degraded soils, namely castor crops, seeds harvested from spontaneous plants (croton), and co-products of the cotton supply chain in a circular economy perspective.

The facility will also produce feed and bio-fertilizers derived from the protein component of the seeds for the benefit of livestock and food production in Kenya, contributing to food security.

The center will also work as a training and technical support hub for farmers.

Found in East and Southern Africa, the Croton nut tree (Croton megalocarpus) is most commonly used as firewood and charcoal or cleared to make way for cash crops. Flowering twice a year, the tree produces small brown inedible nuts that usually end up decomposing on the ground (photo courtesy Eni).

Eni Kenya, its supply chain, and all agri-feedstocks developed have been certified under the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC-EU) sustainability scheme, one of the main voluntary standards for biofuels recognized by the European Commission for verifying Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) compliance.

Notably, Eni is the first company in the world to certify castor oil and croton nut oil for biofuel use under the ISCC-EU scheme and has also enabled an African cotton mill to achieve such certification standards for the first time, offering new market opportunities to local farmers for the cotton fibre.

Eni Kenya, in partnership with ISCC within an EU-co-funded Horizon 2020 project, has also taken steps to obtain low indirect land use change (ILUC) risk certification in the next few months.

Second agri-hub underway

The first phase of the project in Kenya includes the construction of a second agri-hub to reach a total capacity of 30 000 tonnes per year of vegetable oil in 2023, as well as the development of associated agricultural supply chains.

The startup of the production in Kenya represents the first step in Eni’s agro-industrial chain initiatives.

Over the past year, agreements have been signed in several countries including Congo, Mozambique, Angola, Ivory Coast, Benin, Kazakhstan, and Rwanda.

In these countries, as well as in Italy, feasibility studies have been launched in the most mature realities aiming at carrying out the first phase of agricultural activities starting in 2022 and then proceeding with the construction of seeds-pressing plants for biorefining.

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