Tunisia and ENI S.a.P. - the Italian global oil and gas company, launch a world first Biofuel Programme

Tunisia is cementing its position as a viable option for foreign investment and has gained eight places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking.  There are many significant advantages for the foreign investor in Tunisia.  Its strategic location on the Meditteranean, its potential to being a doorway into the wider African markets, together with the well educated skilled workforce at commercially attractive salary levels comprise substantial benefits for foreign direct investment (FDI).

Tunisia has a notable advantage in the fight against the use of fossil fuel in that a major source of vegetable biofuel is the castor oil plant which is indigenous to Tunisia and thrives in a dry and hot environment. ENI S.a.P., the Italian multinational oil and gas company with operations in 79 countries, has just launched a new venture in partnership with Tunisia for the production of castor oil plants in a pre-desert area to facilitate the production of biofuel. It should be noted that farming castor oil plants in this way will assist in the prevention of the expansion of the existing desert areas. A Memorandum of Understanding between ENI and Societè National de Distribution des Pétroles AGIL (SNDP) was signed this week before the Selim Feriani the Tunisian Industry Minister; this marks a world first in the production of non-food castor oil plants for the generation of biofuel.

The success of the project will enable palm oil to be phased out by the European Union by 2030 as the low-cost vegetable oil will inevitably beat the production costs of palm oil.  Giorgio Bianco, who leads in Giambrone’s Tunis office, said “Tunisia is winning in its attempt to recast the country as a major destination for FDI. The biofuel industry sector is a fundamental focus world-wide and is of strategic importance to us all.”

Biofuel appears to be a recent innovative development, however, it actually has a long history with the motor industry going back as far as the initial development of the internal combustion engine in the mid-1800s.  Rudolph Diesel’s compression engine was originally designed to run on peanut oil.  Henry Ford’s Model T Ford’s initially ran on bioethanol.  His vision was to fuel his cars with bioethanol to support the rural farm economy and provide an affordable fuel. Unfortunately, petrol proved to be the winner at the time.

The new dawn and new thinking surrounding the extensive use of polluting fuels may prove to be the beginning of a robust new industry sector for Tunisia as more players in the gas and oil sector turn to alternatives.  Tunisia has a unique position in relation to the viable production of biofuel and every effort should be made to ensure not only that Tunisia keeps its world-leading role in the farming of castor oil plants for the development of biofuel but that it expands this potential and becomes recognised as the go-to country for this sector.

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