Overview

In 2010, the oil industry had to operate in a climate of uncertainty related to the recent deep economic and financial downturn from which worldwide economy does not yet seem to recover fast. To cope with this situation, operators in the oil industry have started a delicate phase of refocusing their activities with the aim of adopting new business models and facing new technical challenges.
Among the main factors affecting the choices of oil&gas industry are:
- continuing uncertainty on the future evolution of prices and of demand for oil and gas;
- limited access to new hydrocarbon resources, with the ensuing problems for production growth and reserve replacement;
- growing interest for the development of unconventional resources;
- greater attention to plant safety keeping account of the defaults evidenced by the recent accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

The reorganization of R&D structures that Eni started in 2006 was completed in 2010 with the help of some measures:
- re-organization of its research project portfolio aimed at focusing activity on industrial objectives while reducing time to completion;
- a new approach to the enhancement and management of intellectual property, based on the recognition of the value of intellectual assets generated by R&D activities;
- launch of the “Effective Control and mitigation of any well blowout in super challenging environment” that has a special strategic status with the aim at overcoming the limitations of traditional techniques used in extremely challenging environments;
- enhancement of results obtained by the “Along with petroleum” program in the exploitation of solar energy by means of polymeric plates acting as converters and concentrators of the solar spectrum, and the conversion of biomass from waste into biofuels by means of a liquefaction process that allows to convert organic waste into a bio-oil and the startup of activities to develop a possible commercial application in the short-medium term;

- strengthening of strategic alliances and scientific cooperation projects with internationally renowned academic institutions and research centers, such as the research alliance with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston (USA), focused on innovative technology in the field of solar energy and on oil&gas issues. A result of this alliance was the creation of the Solar Frontiers Center (SFC), totally dedicated to R&D in solar energy, inaugurated on May 4, 2010, with joint laboratories for MIT and Eni.

In 2010, Eni filed 88 patent applications, 61 of these deriving from R&D in Eni Divisions and Corporate, 10 from Petrochemicals and 17 from the Engineering and Construction activities of Saipem. In particular, 8% of patents concerned refining processes; 49% were in the field of drilling and completion, geology/geophysics of fields, engineering, mid/downstream; 8% concerned the environment and 35% concerned innovation in renewable sources (development of new fuels from biomass, and technologies in solar energy).

In 2010, overall expenditure in Research & Development amounted to approximately €221million, excluding general and administrative expenses (€207 in 2009 and €217 in 2008). At December 31, 2010, a total of 1,019 persons (Full Time Equivalent) were engaged in R&D activities (in line with 2009).
In the next four-year period, we plan to spend €1.1 billion in technological research and innovation activities. Management believes that technological innovation plays a key role for the achievement of long-term competitive advantages. Eni’s attention will be focused in particular on upstream projects with projects aiming at maximize hydrocarbon production through the optimization of well drilling and performance activities, taking advantage of non-conventional resources in order to increase exploration successes.
In Refining segment, main projects aim at developing advanced fuels able to optimize engine performance and reducing noxious emissions, increasing yields of premium products obtained through heavy oils (in particular through Eni proprietary technology EST- Eni Slurry Technology). In Petrochemical Division, Eni is focused on the development of value added polymers and elastomers. Eni plans to improve its long period option in order to achieve a sustainable development of its business and increasing the capacity of renewable energy, in particular in solar and photovoltaic fields, sequestration and reinjection in geological sites of CO2, security and integrity of upstream and clean-up activities.

Below we describe the main results achieved in 2010 in the activities of research and technological innovation significant for the Eni’s commitments to sustainability:

Exploration & Production Division

- Cube: As a reaction to the Macondo event in the Gulf of Mexico and the failed attempt to collect the crude plume with a containing device, Eni prepared a device (in 1:4 proportion) for the collection and separation of gas from water and oil near the wellhead on the seabed and tested it in house up to a flow of 10,000 bbl/d.
- Development of reaction capacity to oil spills on the coast of the Barents Sea and sub-Arctic areas: the Norwegian program led by Eni achieved relevant results in 2010 in preparing an emergency plan for the Goliat field in the Barents Sea. Standards for testing disperdents and beach cleaners have been developed in order to use them in case of oil spills near the coast. These standards will be upheld by Norwegian law and later suggested at international level.
- Deformation of the seabed by means of INSAS: acoustic underwater reflectors have been located on the seabed in a testing area in the Ligurian Sea. The data processed suggest that it is possible to measure the sea bed with resolution to one centimetre.
- GHG program (Green House Gases): within the pilot project for injecting CO2 in the Cortemaggiore gas storage site, Eni is expecting authorizations to build and operate the plant. The discovery of the Italian potential storage location is also performed in cooperation with the main Italian research institutes.

- Water management: this project promotes the application of innovative technologies for the treatment of reinjected waters. In 2010, the contract for the supply of a system for the removal of oil and solids from production waters in the Egyptian desert has been awarded.
- Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) Technology for Energy Recovery: a feasibility study has been completed and the installation of Organic Fluid Cycle (ORC) is underway in the gas powered Fano power station (3 MW) by recovering the thermal power dissipated by turbocompressors. This would represent the rst application of this technique in the Eni’s Group.
- Feeding pumps in desert areas with photovoltaic devices: a contract has been prepared and the engineering is underway for the supply of photovoltaic systems to be applied onto diesel generators for feeding sucker rod pumps in desert areas in Egypt.

Gas & Power Division

- Transport of carbon dioxide by pipeline (TACC): this project is part of the program of long distance transport of gases under dierent pressures with the aim of developing standards, guidelines and recommendations for future applications in carbon capture and storage. In 2010, the technical part of the program was laid out as well as the participants in the Joint Industrial Project (JIP): in this project Eni will promote the creation of four JIP initiatives in joint with other Energy Integraed Companies, including Gasuine and Statoil. Eni will promote the creation of JIP action with other integrated gas companies, e.g. Gasuine and Statoil.
- Monitoring of advanced gas transport systems (MAST and Dionisio project): Eni has developed proprietary technologies for the advanced monitoring of gas transport systems (pipelines and compression stations). In 2010, technologies have been successfully tested for the indication of structural defaults (MAST) that can generate criticalities in transport. The development of the Dioniso technology, that is based on vibro-acoustic sensors for noticing intrusions and leaks along transport pipelines, continued. A prototype monitoring system has been installed on the Chivasso-Aosta pipeline.

Refining & Marketing Division

- Blu fuels and products: Eni has been working for years in R&D for advanced fuels and lubricants that aim at optimizing engine eciency and reducing noxious emissions. In February 2010, the Lombardia Region and Eni signed an agreement for the distribution of “Formula Milano” in 50 outlets. This is a type of BluDieselTech with (i) a total aromatics content lower than 18% in weight, as compared to an average 25% currently on sale; (ii) total polyaromatics content lower 3% in weight as compared to an average 8%; and (iii) cetane number ≥55 as compared to current standards providing for a minimum 51.
- Biofuels: Eni developed the Ecofining TM technology in cooperation with UOP that allows for the conversion of vegetables into Green Diesel. In November 2010, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE) awarded Eni and UOP the 2010 Sustainable Energy Award for the activities developed in this area. Aim of the Ecofining TM technology is the production of biofuel by means of an integrated refining process that allows for the hydrotreatment of the renewable portion (vegetable oil, exhausted oil, animal fat) and obtain a superior product in terms of heating value and cetane number than conventional biodiesel (FAME).
- Zero Waste: Eni intends to develop a system for the disposal of industrial sludge alternative to landfills, possibly associated to thermal treatment in order to minimize waste. For the treatment of industrial, oily and biological waste generated by the oil industry a thermal process has been studied that allows for the gasification of sludge that is turned into an inert residue. A patent application has been filed on this project. Basic design has been completed of a pilot plant with a 50 kg/h capacity along with a feasibility study for an annual volume of 5,000 tonnes of sludge.

Eni Corporate

- Photoactive materials: Eni has produced original dyes applied on transparent polymeric plates that convert and concentrate solar light with a significant reduction in the amount of silicon required for photovoltaic conversion. Their results allow for starting the next development phase after lab testing.
- Use of waste for energy production: at lab scale, Eni has developed a “liquefaction” process for the conversion of the organic waste into bio-oil with a nearly 42% yield (on dry weight) corresponding to an 80% energy recovery. This new technology has been patented and successfully applied to the organic fraction of solid urban waste (FORSU) and to sludge from waste purification plants.
- Micro-organisms for biodiesel: aim of the project is the use of micro-organisms (yeasts and bacteria) that accumulate lipids similar to those deriving from oil bearing vegetable, that can easily be turned into biodiesel. The raw material employed by these microorganisms derives from the treatment of wood-cellulose biomass in order not to compete with food products. The identified yeasts have higher productivity than the traditional oil crops, including palm.
- EKRT (ElectroKinetic Remediation Technology): it is a technology for environmental remediation applicable to mercury polluted soils. An electrolytic solution is circulated in order to dissolve the metallic part of mercury, separating it by means of electrokinesis. This process does not affect the inert portions of mercury and acts selectively only on the mobile portion of mercury, that is also its toxic portion.

Petrochemicals

- Basic petrochemicals: positive testing of catalytic oxidation of phenilcyclohexane on a pilot plant was performed as part of a study aiming at completing a proprietary process for the direct production of phenol and cyclohexanone, which uses benzene as sole feedstock, eliminating the production of acetone as by-product (a toxic and flammable fluid).
- Elastomers: the first industrial production of new grades of S-SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) has been completed with application to high performance (lower energy consumption and reduction in resistance to rolling) in tire materials. In the lab, Eni developed a proprietary technology for new grades of elastomers for Tyre Green application (with lower emissions) with even better performance. ESBR and NBR rubber grades have been obtained at industrial level with low VOCs content.
- Styrenic polymers: at the Mantova site, in the new patented technology plant for the expandable polystyrene production, the industrialization of expandable polystyrene was successfully completed through a continuous mass system with a 38 kT/a capacity. The new products allow a 15% reduction in VOCs which are released in the atmosphere during their transformation.

Results derived from the Eni-MIT alliance

- Oil spills in Marine Environment: the project derives from the discovery of an innovative material with great capacity for selective absorption of oil dispersed in water. This could be a first step towards new systems for treating oil spills in marine environments.
- Ultraflexible solar cell: one of the most relevant results obtained by the Solar Frontier Center. These cells made of a thin photoactive material covered by a layer of transparent plastic can be bent without breaking or reducing performance and this allows to cover irregular surfaces without using metal stilts.
- Solar cells on paper: in this case the photoactive device is made on paper as a printed document. The innovative technique used to produce it is the same used for producing cells on plastic and flexible substrata. A paper cell can be a low cost solution for application where the key aspect is not duration but fast installation and easy transport.
- Photochemical splitting of water: aim of the project is to devise processes for generating oxygen and hydrogen from water by means of biological agents using solar light. The main actors here are nanomaterials synthesised by exploiting the self-assembling capacity of viruses. With this technique we proceeded with the synthesis of new active materials that can be useful in promoting a sustainable generation of hydrogen from renewable sources.
- Biofixation of CO2: CO2 in the sea is captured by living organisms that convert it into calcium carbonate that is a component of their shell. These biological systems have been successfully reproduced in the lab with the use of yeasts. This paves the way for exploiting CO2 while producing calcium carbonate and other materials that are considered eco-sustainable.

Research and innovation