Italian oil giant Eni has continued using palm oil despite its “palm oil free” pledge in 2022, a new T&E investigation has found. 

The investigation has found at least eight vessels that carried Palm Fatty Acid Distillate (PFAD), a byproduct of palm oil production, from Indonesia to Italy to convert to biodiesel. 

In 2020, Eni was fined around £4.26m (€5m) for misleading consumers with ‘green diesel’ advertisements. Italian regulators found that the CO₂ savings were negated by the negative impacts of deforestation linked to palm oil. 

Eni pledged to discontinue its use of palm oil by the end of 2022. “Eni has definitively ended the procurement of palm oil for use at the Venice and Gela biorefineries for the production of hydrogenated biofuels. The last shipments arrived in the last few weeks, ahead of the declared goal of becoming ‘palm oil free’ by the end of 2022,” the company said in a statement

After years of growing concern over the negative effects of palm oil in producing so-called “biofuels” in Europe, Eni announced it would reduce its use in 2023 and eliminate it by 2030. This decision followed French oil company TotalEnergies’ commitment to the same goal in 2021.

However, according to the investigation, the company confirmed that its Gela and Venice refiners still rely on PFADs. Although the industry may refer to them as residues and wastes, scientific studies indicate that PFADs are essential to the palm oil value chain. 

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By GlobalData

Agathe Bounfour, oil program lead at T&E, said: “Studies show that the use of PFADs results in more deforestation and more emissions, all in the name of so-called sustainable biofuels. ENI should end use of all palm products to avoid misleading investors and consumers.”

The investigation followed ships that would begin with multiple stops at Indonesian ports before crossing the Suez Canal towards Eni’s Gela refineries. T&E also noticed a pattern in which several ships would halt in Malaysia, potentially loading more palm products.

“Biofuels are central to the Meloni Government’s pushback against a Europe-wide ban on new petrol and diesel cars. This investigation’s findings should ring serious alarm bells,” Bounfour added.