Italian firm ships out first batch of vegetable oil for refining


Former President Uhuru Kenyatta during a visit to Eni Kenya vegetable oil and related bio-products factory in Wote, Makueni. PHOTO | POOL

Italian firm Eni Kenya has shipped out its first batch of vegetable oil for biorefining, raising the prospects of its production hub in Makueni.

The firm exported the cargo to its Gela bio-refinery in Sicily as it targets to produce 2,500 tonnes of bio-fuel by end of this year and 20,000 tonnes by end of next year.

The shipment marks the pilot phase of Kenya’s bid to produce aviation fuel and hydrogenated vegetable oil diesel and cut reliance on pure fossil fuels.

Production of biofuel is part of the global shift to clean fuels and reduce carbon emissions that have significantly polluted the environment.

“Just three months after the start-up of the Makueni Agri-hub, we are launching the export of vegetable oil for the biorefineries,” Eni’s chief executive officer Claudio Descalzi said in a statement.

The world is grappling with global warming and high prices of fossil fuels, prompting countries to seek alternatives such as biofuels.

Biofuels are composed of biodegradable materials such as vegetable oils and are mixed with fuels such as diesel to cut pollution levels.

Eni Kenya is producing the oil in its Makueni pressing plant that was opened in July to process castor, croton and cotton seeds.

The company also plans to export used cooking oil from hotel chains, restaurants and bars in Nairobi as part of environmental conservation through recycling.

Kenya is seen as a model country on the continent in the biofuel shift with Mr Descalzi saying that the firm will extend the project to Congo, borrowing on lessons from the pilot scheme in Kenya.

Besides helping cut environmental pollution, the Ministry of Energy estimates that the biofuel sector will impact 250,000 farmers in the country’s arid and semi-arid areas, helping to create jobs.

The ministry has previously said that some 25,000 farmers are now involved in the production of castor seeds across 10 counties including Makueni.

The Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited facility in Mombasa, which was shut down in 2013, will be refurbished to process used vegetable oils from low indirect land-use change crops.

The facility is tipped to become a pioneer hub in biofuel production in Africa.

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