Unione Petrolifera takes up the de-carbonisation challenge and becomes Unione Energie per la Mobilità

  Fuels, NEWS & INTERVIEWS, Sustainable Mobility, Technical innovation

The change in name, after 70 years of history, reflects the new reality of associate member companies and their focus on environmental issues, low carbon fuels, innovation and research

Unione Petrolifera (UP) has changed its name to Unione Energie per la Mobilità (Unem). The announcement was made on 6 October during the Annual General Meeting of the association chaired by Claudio Spinaci. The new name highlights the association’s renewed strategic mission: to promote, accompany and support the evolution of its associate members and represent new realities active in relation to environmental issues, de-carbonised fuels and innovation and research in these areas. The new name, according to the association, ensures continuity with the past through the term “Union” and introduces a new concept – energy for mobility – which “represents the evolution of the activities of our members”. “This required several amendments to the Statutes in order to expand the perimeter of representation and include not only production, storage and distribution of various low carbon fuels, including e-fuel (synthetic fuels not of fossil origin), but above all research for their development,” stated a press release issued by Unem. “The activities of the alternative fuels and energy for mobility strategy group, set up within the scope of the Unione Petrolifera in 2018, highlight this transformation in the sector which will require contributions by all available technologies,” the press release added. “Given the evolutionary process underway, it was felt that the name ‘Unione Petrolifera’ by now no longer fully reflects the activities of current and, even more so, possible future associate member companies. It was therefore considered necessary to identify a new name capable of describing this new reality, acknowledging the transformation set in motion and, at the same time, consolidating the association’s values. It is vitally important to retain the heritage of credibility, competence and responsibility built up by Unione Petrolifera over the last seventy years,” the press release announced.

The background to the creation of Unem coincides with a change in the entire supply chain for the fuel industry in its efforts to grasp the challenge of de-carbonisation – a path that requires further investments in research and the development of new solutions in order to provide an effective answer to the needs of modern mobility of goods and people. As Unem itself points out in the presentation on the new official website, the sector is in the forefront in Europe since Italy is one of the few European countries that can rely on two bio-refineries. Other projects are currently being researched, such as the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biofuel, thermo-chemical conversion as a process for converting biomass initially into syngas and then into a hydrocarbon blend that can be used to produce bio-diesel and second-generation fuels for bio-jet fuel (kerosene). Another example is ‘Waste-to-Fuel’ technology, i.e. the conversion of waste grease and oils into renewable jet fuel (kerosene), diesel and naphtha, with a 90% reduction in the carbon footprint compared to conventional fuels. Several refineries are also working on projects focusing on the use or production of so-called ‘Green hydrogen’: it offers the dual advantage of reducing emissions from fuels and other refinery products, while also allowing storage of excess renewable electricity generated when supply exceeds demand. Another technology involves CCS systems (Carbon Capture and Storage). Carbon dioxide emitted by industrial activities (including refineries) is collected and stored in safe and permanent tanks (usually depleted oil or gas wells) to produce de-carbonised (blue) hydrogen from natural gas. The collected carbon dioxide can be used in combination with hydrogen (green or blue) to produce e-fuel.

As Unem highlights, refineries will therefore be in a position to play a decisive role for other industrial sectors by becoming energy hubs supporting the development and production of clean and low carbon hydrogen, while also playing a key role in managing carbon dioxide emissions within industrial clusters by providing a range of low-carbon energy and products for transport and petrochemical sectors alike. The future development of alternative fuels will also have positive repercussions for companies in logistics and distribution sectors, with an increase in the range of alternative fuels and energy on offer to customers and plans to make points of sale ‘energy and carbon neutral’.