The Bioeconomy in Transition Workshop Gela

An International Workshop on the future of Biorefineries in Europe


25-27 May 2017, Gela, Sicily, Italy

Gela hosted a three days workshop from 25th May. The event started in the Teatro Eschilo with a welcome address from the Mayor of Gela (Domenico Messinese) and the Dean of Unitelma Sapienza University of Rome (Francesco Avallone) and ended at the ENI Mediterranea Idrocarburi S.p.A. with a round table.

Here you can download the program of the event and the speakers’ presentations:

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Contents of the Workshop

Why focusing on biorefineries?
In recent years, the traditional European refinery industry has gone through a period of deep crisis due to several factors, including competition of extra-European countries and excess of productive capacity that is not absorbed by domestic demand.

In spite the fact that traditional refineries still represents an important part of the European economy – especially in terms of employment – a large number of industrial plants are outdated and are struggling to compete in the global market.
For some of them, the high environmental and social costs by far outweigh the limited economic benefits.

The recent sharp reduction of oil prices has indeed greatly increased refining margins.
However, this improvement, according to many observers, is not believed to be durable in the long term.
On the other hand we are gradually and inevitably moving towards a circular economy model based on environmental, economic and social sustainability.
This model will limit the dependence from fossil raw materials that are rapidly reaching critical levels of use.

Moving along these lines, the new European legislation enforces the use of a percentage of bio-component in fossil fuel.

In this context, the conversion of some industrial plants becomes a strategic priority as well as a much needed target.
Simply shutting down old industrial plants, in many European countries including Italy, is therefore not the best way forward.

This is certainly the case of the Gela refinery, born in the sixties and managed by ENI.
After a significant downsizing of the activity since 2002, the industrial plant stopped refining in 2014.
In the same year it was announced a plan to convert the plant into a bio-refinery for the production of biodiesel based on the model adopted by ENI in Porto Marghera (Venice).

Following the trend in Europe, Italy has consolidated, over the last few years, a considerable know-how on biofuel and more broadly on bio-refining.
The growing knowledge available locally, combined with the changes in the industrial structure of Gela, represent a fertile ground for boosting the debate on conversion/transition one step forward and assessing new developments and future scenarios associated with the biorefinery.

In order to promote this debate we decided to launch a workshop in Gela which will see gathering experts from all-over Europe engage in timely discussions on economic, environmental and social issues associated with the transition process.

The objective of the workshop is therefore twofold: on the one hand it proposes a scientific-based assessment on the conversion process, on the other hand it aims to define policy guidelines to govern the transition.