Production Capacity R&D and Innovations

Turning Thistles Into Plastics – The Matrica Complex

Novamont and Versalis-ENI (Italy) opened their innovative green chemistry “Matrica” complex in Sardinia just a year ago. A new “third generation biorefinery” started production in Porto Torres – Sardinia (Italy) just a year ago.

It is converting vegetable oils from thistle weeds into chemical intermediates and building blocks to a variety of intermediates and buiding blocks of future bio-plastic products.

The Matrìca green chemistry complex is a 50/50 joint venture between Versalis (Eni) and Novamont, a pioneer and leading EU manufacturer of fully biodegradable bioplastics. The project was born in 2011, when one of the region’s most polluting petrochemical plants was shut down and the decision was made to transform it into one of the most innovative green chemistry complexes in the world.

Production uses local raw materials ,vegetable oils extracted from two types of thistles, and convert it into monomers and intermediates or building blocks such as dicarboxylic acids (azelaic acid) and monocarboxylic acids (pelargonic acid and its esters), and a mixture of C5 – C9 acids. These will in turn eventually be transformed into bio-additives like extender oils for rubber and the tire industry, as well as lubricants, plasticizers for polymers, bio-plastics and oils for cosmetics.

Specifically, the Porto Torres plant uses wild and cultivated thistle, a common weed which grows throughout the year on poor Sardinian farmland where wheat is no longer profitable, as the main ingredient in bio lubricants, bio fillers and bioplastics. Once at full capacity, the plant (which once produced petroleum-based polymers), is expected to employ 680 people, many of whom were laid off when the Eni plant was shut down.

The three plants of the site planned for completion by 2016 represent a global investment of 180 million Euro, and will produce 70,000 tons of bio products a year, putting Italy firmly in the forefront in Europe’s biochemistry sector”

“We have completed a cutting-edge project in record time, driven forward by a strong commitment to research and design of industrial facilities representing excellence in the global chemical industry,” said Daniele Ferrari, CEO Versalis (Eni) and Matrìca Chairman.

“This result represents a key step in a process that began more than 20 years ago with a stubborn group of researchers working in the bioplastics sector and which is leading to the creation here in Sardinia of the first third-generation integrated biorefinery and the conversion of other sites in Italy,” added Catia Bastioli, Managing Director of Novamont and Matrìca. ”.

Matrìca uses Novamont technologies and research competences, with the aim to promote a development model based on an efficient use of renewable sources, cutting-edge and low-impact innovations, research and environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Thanks to the strong involvement of farmers, universities, research centers , local communities and industries, Matrìca represents an interesting opportunity to strengthen the competitiveness and innovation of the local area and to maximize its growth potential on multiple fronts.

Articles on Novamont


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