Italian oil firm starts biofuel production at Makueni plant

The pressing plant has the capacity to produce 15,000 tonnes of oil. [iStockphoto]

An Italian oil firm Eni has started production of vegetable oil at its recently constructed plant in Makueni County.

At the facility, the firm will extract oil from castor, croton and cotton seeds that will then be processed into biodiesel at biorefineries.

The company said the oilseed collection and pressing plant has the capacity to produce 15,000 tonnes of oil, with an expected production of 2,500 tonnes in the course of this year.

It expects to double the production capacity to 30,000 tonnes by the end of 2023.

The agri-hub in Makueni is the first of several such hubs that the firm plans to put up in several markets where it has operations, including Rwanda, Congo and Kazakhstan. It is part of Eni’s plan to decarbonise with an eye on zero emissions by 2050.

“We are creating opportunities for the local community. We have involved 25,000 farmers and employed up to 200 people a day in the construction of the centre. In our vertical integration model, seed cultivation is handled by local farmers, thus promoting their access to market and ensuring access to land,” said the firm's Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi in a statement Monday.

The agri-hub will process castor, croton and cottonseeds to extract vegetable oil.

Support hub

The firm said its venture is sustainable as the feedstocks do not compete with the food supply chain since they come from crops that are resistant to aridity and suitable for growing on degraded soils.

Other than the vegetable oil, the facility will also produce animal feeds and bio-fertilisers from the protein component of the seeds. The centre will also work as a training and technical support hub for farmers.

“The first phase of the project in Kenya includes the construction of a second agri-hub to reach a total capacity of 30,000 tonnes per year of vegetable oil in 2023, as well as the development of associated agricultural supply chains,” said the company.

The company has in the past evaluated plans to convert certain facilities at the Kenya Petroleum Refineries Ltd (KPRL) into a biorefinery that would use vegetable oil in the production of biofuel.

The fuel can then be blended with petrol and diesel for improved performance and reduced carbon emissions when used by motorists and industries.

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