“We’re looking for a joint venture that will allow us to join forces to promote the business.” After days of rumors about the sale of its chemical division Versalis, yesterday the Ceo of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, gave this short answer to the reporters who urged him on the issue. It is at the same time a confirmation of the will of the Italian oil giant to back away from chemistry.
The advisor Barclays would then be at work not to look for buyers but partners and – if according to the agency Bloomberg would be affected several private equity firms – rumors in Italy say it has already started a negotiations with a private fund.
Italian trade unions are obviously very concerned. Versalis, with more than 5,000 employees with highly specialized skills, is a true example of chemical company well structured between production plants and research and rooted in the country. “Put everything on oil would be a mistake”, they say.
Versalis is one of the main player of Italian bioeconomy. Together with Novamont and Genomatica established a technology joint venture for bio-based butadiene. The three companies are working together to develop a complete ”end-to-end’ process for the production of butadiene from non-food biomass. The resulting process will be licensed across Europe, Asia and Africa by the newly-created joint venture.
In Porto Torres (Sardinia), Versalis set up together with Novamont the 50/50 Joint Venture Matrìca, which, with its innovative and market-driven approach, offers a valuable opportunity for fostering competitiveness of the European chemical industry. Starting from agriculture, with advantages along the whole value chain for the complete exploitation of the biomass, bio-based chemistry is the best testing ground for the so-called “circular economy”, sparking sustainable solutions and resilient growth”. Matrìca today has a Research Centre with 7 pilot plants and a world-scale bio-monomer unit up and running from June 2014, converting vegetable oils into monomers and intermediates (such as azelaic acid and pelargonic acid), the building blocks from downstream processes of more complex bio-products, such as bioplastics.
In Porto Marghera (close to Venice), Versalis is developing new initiatives to strengthen its product portfolio, including the development of a green chemistry project, and to optimise exposure to commodities products. The Porto Marghera site is in a strategic location, which benefits from proximity to markets in Northern Europe and connections with other Versalis sites including Mantova, Ferrara and Ravenna, guaranteeing supply of raw material.
Versalis expects a €200m investment in Porto Marghera which will focus on the optimisation and reorganisation of cracker utilities, energy saving, and on the new initiative of green chemistry. The innovative green chemistry project, already launched with American company Elevance Renewable Science Inc., provides development and industrialisation opportunities; world–scale plants which are the first of their kind; and new technology for the production of bio-chemical intermediates and vegetable oils for sectors with high added value applications such as detergents, bio-lubricants and chemicals for the oil industry. The project will take advantage of existing infrastructures and Versalis’s production stream.
“The bio-based chemicals business is central to Versalis’ new industrial and business approach. The agreement with Elevance will further enhance our capability to progress in green innovation while boosting the transformation of one of our petrochemical sites into a more competitive and long-term sustainable complex, thus creating synergies between the renewable and the petrochemical industries,” Daniele Ferrari, Versalis Ceo, said in Febrary 2014.