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Eni signs castor oil development MoU with SNDP in Tunisia

Italy-headed oil and gas major Eni S.p.A. and Societè National de Distribution des Petroles AGIL SpA (SNDP) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on joint collaboration, through a joint company, to cultivate the castor oil plant at a semi-industrial level in Tunisia. Already being trialed by Eni in the Gafsa area, the aim is to use castor oil as a feedstock for sustainable biofuels production.

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In Tunisia, Eni has conducted research on castor oil plant growth and yields together with the University of Catania and the Technopole de Borj Cedria in the Gafsa area. On December 4, 2019, Eni signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Societè National de Distribution des Petroles AGIL SpA (SNDP) on joint collaboration, through a joint company, to cultivate castor at a semi-industrial level used to produce sustainable biofuels (photo courtesy ANSAmed).

The agreement was signed on December 4, 2019, by the SNDP President and General Manager, Nabil Smida, and Eni’s Chief Refining and Marketing Officer, Giuseppe Ricci in the presence of the Tunisian Minister of Industry, Selim Feriani,

According to Eni, this will be the world’s first example of semi-industrial non-food being cultivated in a pre-dessert area to generate sustainable biofuels, and it will make environmentally-friendly vegetable oil available as an alternative to gradually replace palm oil, which the EU has decided to phase-out by 2030.

The company’s research and experimentation in the Gafsa area, which has produced “excellent” agronomic results, involved the University of Catania, Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, in everything relating to plant yields, and the Technopole de Borj Cedria of Tunisia on aspects relating to agro-geological cultivation and sustainability.

The castor oil plant (Ricinus communis) is native to Tunisia. A non-food plant, it is resistant to the hot, dry climate and to the medium salinity water that is found in the mid-depth aquifers of the area.

In addition to forming a barrier against continuing desertification by creating a less extreme microclimate, the development of castor cultivation in pre-desert areas is seen as an opportunity to develop a local sustainable agro-energy supply chain.

Castor seed typically contains between 40 percent and 60 percent oil. Castor oil has several uses and well known in the petrochemical industry, previously as a lubricant oil for two-stroke engines before the development of syntheic oils

According to the Food And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), global castor seed production in 2017 was almost 1.8 million tonnes of which India dominates with 1.14 million tonnes.

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