Chemistry from renewables

We start from alternative and renewable sources to offer sustainable products with a view to decarbonisation.

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We are constantly engaged in the transition towards the development of a sustainable, low-carbon growth model. That is why we base our activities on integrating the principles of sustainability and circularity in the management of industrial processes and products throughout their entire life cycle.

One of the pillars of our strategy is the development of chemistry from renewables, with the aim of starting from alternative sources to offer decarbonised products.

Our chemistry from renewables platforms

We operate our plants in Crescentino, Porto Torres, and Research Centres in Novara and Rivalta Scrivia to offer chemical products from renewable sources.

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Crescentino

Our Crescentino (Vercelli – Piedemonts Region) plant has a strong focus in the production system of chemistry from renewables. Acquired by Versalis in 2018, it was restarted in 2021 and is the world's first example of industrial application of the PROESA® proprietary technology for the production of ethanol from biomass. The plant is able to process 200 thousand tonnes of biomass each year, with a maximum production capacity of approximately 25 thousand tonnes of bioethanol per year.

At the Crescentino site, we produce bioethanol referred to as 'advanced' in accordance with the European Renewable Energy Directive RED II, a fuel from renewable raw material to be used in blends with petrol to boost sustainable mobility. Bioethanol is obtained from lignocellulosic biomass that does not compete with the food chain and its sustainability is certified according to the voluntary ISCC-EU (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification) scheme.

By supplying the plant with biomass sourced from areas close to the plant, we promote a sustainable short supply chain and support local producers.

Furthermore, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we partly adapted the site's production supply chain to start production of Invix® hand and surface disinfectant®, a bioethanol-based medical-surgical device authorised by the Ministry of Health.

The Crescentino plant is an example of sustainable enterprise and circularity:

  • the plant is energy self-sufficient, thanks to the production of renewable electricity and steam from the thermoelectric power plant, which is fuelled by short supply chain biomass.
  • it has a water treatment plant that recovers the organic fraction for the production of biogas, which in turn is used for steam production
  • it is able to purify the process water used so that it can be totally recycled 
  • it allows all the components of the processed biomass to be recovered, co-producing lignin as well as bioethanol, which is currently used as an additional fuel in the biomass thermoelectric power plant, but for which commercialisation towards other industrial uses is being considered
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Crescentino

How our PROESA® technology works

Industrial bioethanol production at the Crescentino plant is based on the PROESA® proprietary technology, one of the most innovative in the biomass chemistry sector.

We use PROESA® technology to produce bioethanol from the fermentation of second-generation sugars from biomass. The difference with first-generation processes is that in the latter, the biomass is constituted by food products such as beet, maize or sugar cane, crops from which sugar is extracted and then fermented into bioethanol with yeasts.

With PROESA®, we use non-food and waste biomass. Here, the cellulose and hemicellulose molecules bound with lignin in the biomass are extracted and reduced to sugars through the action of enzymes that cut through these long molecules; only this innovative physical and biochemical process is able to produce sugars which, like those from food crops, can be fermented with yeasts and turned into bioethanol.

With this innovative proprietary technology, through an exclusively physical and biochemical process:

  • we produce second-generation (2G) sugars which, like those from food crops, can be fermented with yeasts to bioethanol 
  • we expose the lignocellulosic biomass to a series of thermal and mechanical actions in the pre-treatment section in order to break it down and facilitate the task of the enzymes which cut through the long chains of cellulose and hemicellulose it contains to obtain simple sugars: glucose and xylose
  • we transform glucose and xylose into bioethanol through fermentation with specific yeasts
  • lastly, we separate bioethanol from water and lignin in the distillation section, where we obtain the desired degree of purity for its use as a renewable fuel in a blend with petrol
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Novara and Rivalta Scrivia (Alessandria)

At our Research Centres in  Novara and Rivalta Scrivia (Alessandria) we carry out research and development on chemistry from renewables.

The main activities are aimed at further improving the PROESA® technology as well as developing new technological platforms to produce a full range of renewable products both by fermentation and chemical synthesis with innovative catalysis processes from liquid biomass.

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Porto Torres

At Porto Torres (Sassari, Sardinia), we set up the Matrìca Joint Venture with Novamont based on an innovative chemistry from renewables  platform for the production of high value-added products from vegetable oils, for applications in many sectors.

The strategic partnership between Versalis and Novamont was recently strengthened to maximise technologies products and assets and seize new opportunities by leveraging their respective integrated supply chains.

Furthermore, confirming our continued commitment to innovation, we have also entered the market for renewable energy products for agricultural protection. In fact, we have developed plant-based, biodegradable herbicides and biocides for surface disinfection under the Sunpower® brand, using the production of active ingredients from the chemistry from renewables platform at Porto Torres. 

All this thanks to the agreement signed with AlphaBio Control, a research and development company with offices in the UK and Italy specialized in the development of natural crop protection formulations with products that are already well known in the plant protection market. The marketing of the two product lines is being prepared in Italy, with the aim of subsequently extending the portfolio with new formulations that the two companies are studying in their research laboratories.