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Green chemistry project in Porto Torres, Italy


In May 2011 the Italian government, the public institutions of Sardinia, the trade unions, Novamont and Eni (with its subsidiaries Versalis, Syndial and Enipower) signed a "Memorandum of understanding-MoU for "Green Chemistry in Porto Torres", which was the starting point for a major project for the conversion of the Porto Torres petrochemical complex to a third generation bio-refinery. This was the origin of Matrìca, a 50/50 joint venture between Versalis (Eni) and Novamont, responsible for the implementation and management of the new project.

The area, polluted for years by the petrochemical complex, is identified as a Site of National Interest (SIN) - very large contaminated areas, classified as the most dangerous by the Italian State and in need of remediation of soil, underground and/or surface water and groundwater, to reduce damages to the environment and health.

The project involves the construction of seven chemical plants using vegetable oil feedstocks for the production of biochemicals (bio-plastics, bio-lubricants, additives for rubber and elastomers) and includes the installation of a biomass power plant. The biomass energy plant (205 MWt), to be managed by Eni power, will have two boilers. One will be alimented with thistle for the production of 135 MWt (then transformed in 43,5 MWe), 250.000 t/year, whose cultivation is expected to cover around 100,000 ha. The auxiliary boiler will produce 70MWt using Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), in substitution to the initial plan to use FOK (Fuel oil cracking). The project also includes reclamation of the existing plants and the construction of a research centre for new green chemistry products.

In 2011, local citizens, farmers, medical associations for the environment and social movement started to protest against the mega project. The “No Green Chemistry/No Incinerator” committee, created by local citizens after becoming aware of the MoU, is strongly against the project and raised several criticisms. Firstly regarding the lack of information on the reclamation process (data, technical procedures, extent of land involved) that should be provided urgently by ENI in the high polluted area. There are 3,000 ha of intensely polluted land. Secondly, the biomass plant would require an extensive cultivation of thistle that would invade the island crops. Moreover the plan is not accepted by local farmers. A dreaded alternative could be to feed the plant with solid urban waste (or a mixture of biomass and waste), allowed by the Italian law (Legislative Decree 6th of July 2012), in contravention with European legislation [1]. In addition, the complex will release emissions in the air that will sum to the existing contamination provoked in the last years by ENI activities in the area, still waiting to be reclaimed.

Different Environmental Impact Assessments – (EIAs) were presented to the SAVI (the regional office for environmental impacts assessment) to obtain the authorization to convert the chemical plant and for the new biomass power plant. Local committees and medical organizations mobilized, sending formal observations to the EIAs presented. In December 2011, Matrica Spa obtained a positive opinion on the EIA by the Region for "Installations for production of monomers and biodegradable lubricants from natural vegetable oils”. Then Matrica obtained the authorization and in 2012 the construction begun. In June 2014 Matrìca's first green chemistry plant was inaugurated.

In July 2012 the EIA process related to the biomass power plant managed by Enipower started. The project to feed the plant with biomass and FOK has been criticized by ISDE (The International Society of Doctors for the Environment) through official observation to the SAVI [ISDE Observations 2011, 2012, 2013]. After a negative opinion received by the Region on the use of FOK, Eni power presented in 2013 an integration to the EIA replacing the Fuel Oil Cracking with LPG. The Region approved the new power plant project, which is waiting for the final authorization by the Regional Department of Industry.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Green chemistry project in Porto Torres, Italy
State or province:Autonomous Sardinian Region
Location of conflict:Municipality of Porto Torres
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Chemical industries
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Specific commodities:Land
Biological resources
Chemical products
Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The process of conversion of the Porto Torres site, started in 2012 and will affect a total area of around 27 hectares.

The project (three phases) will focus on building 7 green chemistry plants and 1 technical research centre by Matrica, 1 biomass power plant by Enipower. The plants will have a total capacity of around 350,000 tonnes of bio-products per year. The entire integrated production chain will be completed by 2017.

The planned investment would total 1,200 million euro approximately, divided as follows within the various projects:

- 450 million euros in "green chemistry";

- 230 million euros for Enipower, to produce electricity from biomass using a 43,5 MWe plant and with the revamping of the existing 160 MWe plant powered with fuel oil and FOC (Fuel oil cracking);

- 530 million euros for all reclamation of at least 600 hectares heavily polluted; the environmental recovery of the area will be carried out by Syndial, a company owned by Eni

- 50 million euros for the industrial infrastructure and the construction of a research centre at a university.

The biomass plant will be alimented with thistle. 250.000 t/year according to the project data, but studies promoted by local committees calculated a real necessity of 500.000 t/year to aliment the 43,5 MWe, that will require around 100.000 ha of thistle plantations. [4,5]

The Matrica project obtained a 12-year, €70 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Project area:27 ha [chemical complex area]; 100,000 ha [biomass plantations]
Level of Investment:1,581,360,000.00 USD
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:141,793 [Sassari and Porto Torres inhabitants]
Start of the conflict:09/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Matrica spa from Italy
Novamont from Italy
Eni group from Italy
Enipower from Italy
Relevant government actors:Italian government, Ministry of the Environment and Land Defence, Minister for Economic Development, Sardinia Region, Municipality of Porto Torres and Sassari , SAVI (regional office for the environmental impacts assessment), Regional Department of Industry.
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Investment Bank (EIB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Comitato No Chimica Verde/ No Inceneritore; Comitato Nurra Dentro-Riprendiamoci l’Agro ; Coordinamento Sardo Non Bruciamoci il Futuro,
I.S.D.E.(International Society Doctor for Enviroment); Ordine dei Medici Sassari ; WWf Sardegna ; G.R.I.G. (Gruppo di Intervento Giuridico); Italia Nostra Sardegna ; Associazione Medici Cattolici Italiani; Collettivo Aznamusnart ; Collettivo Alim(e)ntazione ; C.S.O.A. Pangea

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsThe “green chemistry” plant will emit in the air SO2, NOX, CO, TOC, NH3, O2, H2O and dust [3]
Different EIAs on the "Green Chemistry" project were presented. Local committees, alarmed by the high level of contamination of the area, highlight the lack of an environmental evaluation cumulating all impacts of different projects (bio refinery, power plant, etc.). [5]
The interested area include Sites of Community Interest (SCI) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Here there is an obligation to maintain habitats and species in a favorable conservation status and to evaluate the negatives effects of new plans and projects. (Presidential Decree no. 357 8 September 1997, Article 5 and Annex G.7; Europeans directives"Birds" - 2011/147 / EC- and "Habitat" - 92/43 / EC-) [5]
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
In 2013, following the official observation to the EIA process sent by ISDE [4], Enipower presented an integration to the EIA for the biomass power plant. The new installation is waiting the final authorization by the Regional Department of Industry.
Development of alternatives:Local committees expressed their strong opposition to the “Green Chemistry” project. Primarily, the reclamation of the entire area polluted by the industrial activities carried out in the last 50 years is considered fundamental for the region. The process should include the constitution of a monitoring public entity/research center. They argue that after the cleaning up it will be possible to develop new projects, involving local population, respecting environmental sustainability and in accordance with regional and local needs.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The conflict is not finished and protests continue. The first of the seven plants of green chemistry was opened in June 2014 and the authorization process for the biomass power plant is going ahead. Local mobilization has involved many people and strengthen edparticipation of citizens previously disinterested of the impacts on health and environment caused by the activities of the petrochemical complex.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Regional resolution January 2014

[2]Legislative Decree n.179 31st of July 2002 - Recognition of the industrial area of Porto Torres as Site of National Interest (SIN)

[1]Legislative Decree 6th of July 2012 - national regulation biomass power plants

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[4]Observations EIA “ Centrale a biomassa di Porto Torres”Enipower, ISDE_9-2012

[5]Observations to the EIA integration“Centrale a biomassa di Porto Torres” Enipower, ISDE_7-2013

[6]SENTIERI report. Epidemiological study of national territories exposed to pollution risks, ISS, 2014

Article on green chemistry in Porto Torres

Manifesto newspaper article on the thistle plantations

Il Fatto Quotidiano article, Porto Torres project

SardiniaPost, Article on protests carried out by local committees

[3]Observations EIA “Progetto Polo Verde – Fase I. Impianti per la produzione di monomeri ed oli lubrificanti, biodegradabili, da oli vegetali naturali”Matrica Spa, ISDE_9-2011

[7]SENTIERI report. Epidemiological study of national territories exposed to pollution risks, ISS, 2011

Region website, documentes on the project

Il Manifesto Sardo, articles on the green chemistry project ; ; ;

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

No chimica verde facebook page

Sardinian mobilizations website

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Local committees protests against the project

Conference on the project ; ;

Conference on the project, Comitato no Chimica Verde

Other documents

No chimica verde demonstration

velENI = poisons

Poster asking for reclamation of the contamined area


Numbers against the project


Falsh mob during a religious event in Sassari

Other comments:The industrial area of Porto Torres was recognized as Site of National Interest (SIN) with the law n.179 31/7/2002 [2]. SIN were defined by Legislative Decree 22/97 (Ronchi Decree) and the Ministerial Decree 471/99 and incorporated by Decree 152/2006.
The health impacts on the population caused by the pollution have been proved in the SENTIERI studies promoted by the National Health Institute (Istituto Superiore Sanità, ISS) [6,7].
The pollution of the area emerged from analysis carried out by Syndial in 2011 on groundwater contamination.The company, owned by Eni, is responsible for the reclamation process.

Meta information

Contributor:Committee No Chimica Verde/ No Inceneritore ([email protected] ) - CDCA (
Last update10/09/2014



No chimica verde demonstration


velENI = poisons


Poster asking for reclamation of the contamined area




Numbers against the project




Falsh mob during a religious event in Sassari