Eni and the SNDP (Societè National de Distribution des Petroles AGIL SpA), signed on 4 December a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Tunisian Ministry of Industry, in the presence of the Tunisian Minister of Industry, Selim Feriani, to collaborate on the cultivation of castor at a semi-industrial level to produce sustainable biofuels, which is already being trialled by Eni in the Gafsa area.
The agreement was signed by the SNDP President and General Manager, Nabil Smida, and Eni’s Chief Refining and Marketing Officer, Giuseppe Ricci.
This will be the world’s first example of semi-industrial non-food being cultivated in a pre-desert area to generate sustainable biofuels, and it will make environmentally-friendly vegetable oil available as an alternative to gradually replace palm oil, which is being phased out by 2030 in the European Union.
Eni’s research and experimentation in the Gafsa area, which 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 Tunisa on aspects relating to agro-geological cultivation and sustainability.
The castor oil plant is native to Tunisia. 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 an opportunity to develop a local sustainable agro-energy supply chain.