Versalis marrying feedstocks, technology and products in sustainability drive – CEO

Nigel Davis

05-Dec-2022

LONDON (ICIS)–Versalis is on a journey to marry green chemicals technologies and recycling capabilities with products and markets to further enhance its well-developed presence in renewables, according to its CEO.

In a conversation with ICIS before accepting the ICIS Power Players – Emerging Leader Award for 2022, Adriano Alfani stressed the importance of developing the company’s technological, production, and marketing position in green chemistry as its parent company, Italy’s energy major Eni, addresses the energy transition.

Versalis started on its green chemicals industrial and business approach more than 10 years ago and is working alongside Eni to create new green feedstock chemicals and recycling capabilities.

Alfani strongly believes that, in order to address the challenges of circularity, one technology is no better than another, the CEO said in London.

And, as he accepted the ICIS award, he pointed to investments Versalis is making in mechanical and chemical recycling.

“One technology is not better than another one, or it is not one or the other: We’re looking at all possible types of technology that enable us to create circularity,” he said.

Versalis is well known for its drive into ‘green’ or biotechnologies as it strives to reduce its reliance on hydrocarbon feedstock and build viable, alternative process routes and markets for certain chemicals and polymers.

As far as recycling is concerned, Versalis has said it will invest in mechanical recycling at the Eni site in Porto Marghera, on the Venice lagoon.

It has also announced it is to build a first pilot chemical recycling plant in Mantua, north Italy.

“We ae not looking on mechanical or chemical [recycling] as better, but as fully complementary, because we have to recycle. Circularity is very important for us,” said Aflani.

Versalis acquired technology from Ecoplastic to recycle styrenic plastics at the site. Subsequently, phase two of the recycling project is based on the acquisition of Forever Plast.

That gives Versalis the capability to recycle waste from rigid and expandable styrenics to polyethylene (PE).

Porto Marghera is a key site for Versalis and its parent company Eni, where transformation of the oil refinery into a bio-refinery has been ongoing since 2014.

The decision was taken in 2021, however, to make this a more green and sustainable site, Alfani said, by closing the steam cracker and increasing bio-refining capacity, as well as to invest in new technologies, such as one to produce isopropyl alcohol (also known as isopropanol, IPA).

The transformation of the refinery means that Versalis’ carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint across all its assets is reduced by 20%.

Versalis obtained in 2021 the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) Plus for monomers, intermediates, polymers, and elastomers produced from bionaphtha and chemicals recycling at Porto Marghera and at its Italian plants in Brindisi, Mantua, Ferrara, and Ravenna.

The downstream products can be marketed as a ‘bio-attributed’ when made from bionaphtha and ‘circular- attributed’ when made from pyrolysis oil obtained from chemical recycling.

Versalis counts a lot on investing in chemicals from renewables, or what some call biobased chemicals, Alfani said.

The CEO said the journey started 10 years ago with the decision to transform the company’s production site in Porto Torres in Sardinia into a green chemistry hub.

“We have worked very hard over the last 10 years in order to develop this type of technology, but also to develop not only the technology, but the marketing and the product that goes in this specific market. And we’ve been very happy with the success,” Alfani said.

There has been investment in alternative technologies to make chemicals from renewables.

Versalis was successful in acquiring the Mossi & Ghisolfi Group’s ‘green’ chemicals activities in 2018 and move into second generation bioethanol (ethanol from biomass) to tackle markets like advanced biofuels and also products based on bioethanol and disinfectants that were extremely useful through the pandemic.

In March 2022, it increased its stake in Novamont and subsequently its commitment to the Matrica joint venture (JV) in Porto Torres that was established in 2011.

“We are extremely happy of where we are in our journey,” he said in his conversation with ICIS.

“Of course, the journey is a journey, so it means that we are still not finished.”

Watch the ICIS Emerging Leader Award interview with Versalis CEO Adriano Alfani here

Interview article by Nigel Davis

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