The official inauguration of the first of the green chemistry plants at the new Matrìca complex took place on Monday at Porto Torres, on the island of Sardinia. Matrìca is a 50:50 joint venture between Versalis, the leading Italian manufacturer of petrochemical products, and Novamont, a major Italian manufacturer of bioplastics sector. First conceived of back in 2011 with the object of converting the petrochemical plant at Porto Torres into one of the most innovative, integrated green chemistry complexes in the world, the project today celebrates the start-up of production based on raw materials from vegetable renewable sources.
Daniele Ferrari, Chairman, and Catia Bastioli, Managing Director of Matrìca performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was also attended by the Italian Minister of the Environment Gian Luca Galletti. The newly opened plant converts vegetable oils into monomers and intermediates, the building blocks for downstream production of more complex bioproducts.
Over the next few months, another two plants will come on-stream at the biorefinery complex; at these, monomers and intermediates will be transformed into extensor oils for the tire industry and into a raft of innovative products with high added value, such as bases for biolubricants, plasticizers for polymers and products for cosmetic formulations. Representing a global investment of about 180 million Euros ($240 million), the three plants have a total production capacity of approximately 70 thousand tons per year.
During the ceremony, the Environment Minister emphasized the importance of the innovative strength of the Italian biochemistry sector. "We are inaugurating an innovative industrial plant, Italian excellence which puts us firmly in the forefront in Europe in the biochemistry sector. The Environment can truly be a driver for our country's recovery and the only development possible is development where the green economy is at the heart of every sector of production," he declared.
According to Versalis (Eni) CEO and Matrìca Chairman Daniele Ferrari, the project was completed in record time, "driven forward by a strong commitment to research and design of industrial facilities representing excellence in the global chemical industry."
"Versalis has been following a route for some years now that today sees it in the forefront of chemistry based on renewable sources," Ferrari added.
Catia Bastioli, Managing Director of Novamont and Matrìca, described the inauguration of the first Matrìca plant as the culmination of a process that began more than 20 years ago, with a stubborn group of researchers working in the bioplastics sector, and which has now led to the creation of the first third generation integrated biorefinery and has given impetus to the conversion of other sites in Italy.
"The first Matrìca plant that we are inaugurating today, uses a proprietary technology radically different from all other existing technologies: it does not use ozone in the vegetable oil oxidative scission reaction and allows us to produce intermediates known as azelaic acid and pelargonic acid, as well as new proprietary products, through a safe process with low environmental impact," she said.
"This moment is the starting point of a challenge that I hope will see the local area as an experimental laboratory for a new development model that will harmoniously combine industry, agriculture, environment, technological innovation, culture, enhancing the immense wealth of human resources, beauty, technical qualities and biodiversity that this island and the whole Italy represent."