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Eni, FCA partner on R&D to cut road vehicle CO2 emissions; methanol/ethanol blends, renewable diesel, ANG, on-board CO2 capture

The chief executive of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, and the chief executive of FCA, Sergio Marchionne, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the joint development of research projects and technological applications aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from road transport vehicles. The two companies, renewing their strategic commitment to a low-carbon future and in line with Italy’s National Energy Strategy, will combine their respective expertise, experiences and know-how to reduce the sector’s level of CO2 emissions.

Eni and FCA have identified the following areas of cooperation:

  • The development of technologies and materials to absorb natural gas, Absorbed Natural Gas (ANG), which will make it possible to improve existing technologies linked to compressed natural gas (CNG) in the automotive sector. This collaboration will involve the study of technologies and absorbing materials that will permit the transport of compressed gas (CNG) at a much lower pressure, reducing the weight of tanks and increasing the mileage per refill.

  • The development of new technologies for the use of gas in transport. These would facilitate the use of compressed (CNG) and liquefied (LNG) gas, as well as of methanol, which allows emission reductions when it is added to traditional fuel. Eni has developed a new type of gasoline containing alternative fuels (15% methanol and 5% bioethanol) which produces lower emissions and is currently being jointly tested with FCA. This new fuel will be used by five Fiat 500 vehicles from the Enjoy fleet, Eni’s car sharing service that was created in partnership with FCA, in an extensive road test.

    Use of this new fuel can deliver a reduction of more than 4% of CO2 emissions (2% in the combustion phase and a further 2.3% deriving from the fuel production cycle and due to the organic component).

    In addition, in order to extend the use of car sharing and underline the versatility and flexibility of compressed gas, the Enjoy fleet will be expanded to include Fiat Doblò vans in the new Enjoy Cargo service, starting at the beginning of next year. This will constitute the world’s first case of vehicle sharing for the transport of goods, without the need to pick-up and return vans from or to a fixed point. 20% of the Fiat Doblò fleet will be powered by methane.

  • The realization, which will benefit also from the collaboration with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), of technologies and devices for the capture and temporary storage of part of CO2 produced by internal combustion engines. With road transport vehicles responsible for around 23% of total CO2 emissions, and the share of light vehicles alone reaching about 10%, this would result in a significant reduction of the transport sector’s CO2 emissions.

  • To reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions further, the parties also confirmed their shared interest in assessing new fuel types for use in existing vehicles, without the need for substantial mechanical changes. Among other things, this includes diesel types with a higher proportion of hydrotreated vegetable oils (HVO) than now, gasoline with higher alcohol content, including from renewable sources and/or waste, and the use of new “friction-reducing” additives.

Finally, the two companies have agreed to launch and implement new partnerships with Italian and international universities aimed at creating and training new professional profiles for the future.

Eni and FCA are conducting new tests using green diesel (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil or HVO), in significantly increased proportions compared with Eni Diesel+. In this case, thanks to the characteristic composition and vegetable nature of the fuel, this results in significant reductions in CO and unburned hydrocarbon emissions and, above all, reductions of around 60% in CO2 emissions, calculated across the entire fuel production process (well to tank), as well as a further reduction in tank-to-wheel emissions.

This fuel can already be used with existing vehicles, without the need to modify the engine. If combined with systems the two companies are developing for the on-board capture and storage of CO2, an even more significant level of reduction of emissions could be achieved.

With regard to the use of methanol, use of the new gasoline (15% methanol, 5% bio-ethanol) can ensure, well to wheel, a more than 4% reduction in CO2 emissions. The possible future replacement, currently being studied, of methanol by bio-methanol from renewable sources, could lead to the reduction of CO2 emissions by around 10%, reaching also in this case significant level of reduction of emissions when the system of on-board CO2 capture is included.

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