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Versalis commences advanced ethanol production

In Italy, Versalis S.r.L., a subsidiary of national oil, gas, and energy major Eni S.p.A has announced that it has begun the production of advanced ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass at Crescentino (Vercelli).

In 2013, Beta Renewables officially opened its EUR 150 million industrial-scale second-generation ethanol plant in Crescentino, province of Vercelli, Italy. The plant EPC was carried out by Biochemtex, and is based entirely on the PROESA technology, also developed by Biochemtex. The plant design capacity was to produce up to 60 000 tonne-per-annum of ethanol from 270 000 tonnes of biomass as well as electricity to the grid. The assets and resources of Biochemtex and Beta Renewables were acquired by Versalis in November 2018 (photo courtesy Beta Renewables).

The plant, which was acquired by Versalis in 2018, has been overhauled thanks to major investments and has started the production of advanced ethanol, in compliance with the European legislation for the development of renewable energy RED II, as it is derived from raw materials that do not interfere with the food chain.

The bioethanol, produced using “Proesa” technology, said to be one of the world’s most innovative industrial-scale biomass chemistry technologies, is ISCC-EU certified and will be used to formulate gasoline with a renewable component.

The plant is capable of processing 200 000 tonnes of biomass per year, with a maximum production capacity of approximately 25 000 tonnes of bioethanol per year.

Following an initial test production run in recent weeks, the plant is now working at a progressive speed in order to fine-tune processes.

Since July 2020, Crescentino has also been producing “Invix” hand and surface disinfectant, a “medical device” made using bio-based ethanol as an active ingredient.

Circular biorefinery

The Versalis plant at Crescentino is an example of sustainable initiative and circularity: its energy supply is self-sustaining due to the production of renewable electricity and steam from the thermoelectric power plant, which is fed with a short supply chain biomass and the lignin co-produced by the process.

A complex wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) enables the production of biogas, which in turn is used to produce steam. The plant is also able to recycle the water used, thus drastically reducing water consumption.

Starting with the industrial production of advanced bioethanol using Proesa technology is an important step for Crescentino, a one-of-a-kind plant that further strengthens our strategy to develop chemicals using renewable energy to improve sustainable mobility, in line with Eni’s energy transition strategy. For Versalis, innovation and technological development are essential components for accelerating the development of increasingly sustainable chemicals, said Adriano Alfani, CEO of Versalis.

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