NEW YORK – “Next winter will not be easy without a roof on it gas pricebecause the volumes will be there but the bills they will be heavy for companies and consumers, as we must not forget the speculative distortion of the market ». The alarm comes from the CEO of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, during a meeting with Italian journalists at the end of a visit to the USA, which also led him to Boston in order to see progress in building the reactor prototype to produce energy through the magnetic confinement fusion.
According to Descalzi, Italy is right to “insist” on the gas price ceiling: “For the winter, since Russian gas is still there, there is no problem of flows but of prices. This is why it is important that Dragons keep pushing. Without reason, we have a price that is 6-7 times higher than what we had in 2019. Putting a cap means reducing the price of theelectricityand to guarantee energy security because it gives the possibility to fill the storage areas to 85-90%, essential in a moment in which we have to experience intense cold ».
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The agreement will not be easy, also because there are different economic interests between the countries of the North and the South Europe. «We have already seen this with the embargo of Russian oil. But Italy is right to insist, because it would have a very positive impact. Moreover, it would also represent a mini embargo for Russia because it would earn less, and it would also be a deterrent for the American gas should the price tend to rise “.
For the medium, however, the CEO ofEni he is more optimistic: «Within two and a half years, or three, we will be able to replace the Russian gas. The government worked early on to find alternatives, and we are very diverse. Our predecessors were far-sighted with connections with theAfrica northern. We are not going to buy gas, but we are going to the countries where we have invested and we have gas. In these countries we also have reserves. We work in countries where we have been present for 60 years, we guarantee supplies for local needs, and we ask to bring our gas to Italy and Europe. The priority is obviously Italy ».
Also on the stop to Russian oil by theEuropean Union things move. American media reported that the State Department gave permission to Eni and the Spanish Repsol to resume importing small quantities of crude oil from Venezuela, as compensation for Caracas’ debts to the two companies. OPEC has given the green light to increase production, but the lack of investments in recent times limits the very capacities of countries like theSaudi Arabiaeven where there was the political will to proceed.
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Even the attention of shareholders, according to Descalzi, has shifted from the transition towards clean sources to energy security: “During Covid, and until June 2021, 90% of questions were about energy transition. From June-July everything changed and there were no more questions about the energy transition, but everything upstream. There has been a U-turn. Investors’ concern is: Can you make investments? Do you have reservations? We are well regarded, because we have done a lot of exploration and we have found a lot, but many have no reservations ».
The CEO of Eni is also looking to the future, betting on the energy generated by the nuclear fusion. He is developing it in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology through the Commonwealth Fusion Systemsa startup also supported by Bill Gates, where the Italian company is among the major investors: «In America we are focusing a lot on the renewable part, and on this scientific initiative. As we see its potential, we have come to see progress. There is the site where the core of the fusion is being built. This was an opportunity to review all the steps that will lead us to the construction of the plant, which will be operational in 2030, with a pilot prototype in scale for 2025 ».
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In 2030, the plant should be connected to the grid, producing a lot of energy at low cost, without safety risks or waste: «Work is already being done on doubling the pilot project. It will be the first pseudo-industrial plant in the world to emit electricity from nuclear energy to the grid. We started out as promoters and are among the main shareholders. We made a capital increase to build the prototype, which in ten days raised 1.8 billion dollars, showing that there are financial companies who believe in it ».
According to Descalzi it could be «a real revolution. With a bottle of water taken from the sea, 250 megawatts can be produced in one year ». And this could be done anywhere, Italy including whether the rules will allow it, erasing the geopolitical problems of energy that are now at the center of the dispute with Russia. “We are already selecting other areas in the United States. We try to have these industrial plants and to have more than one in parallel. It is a real revolution. They are small plants that can create a lot of energy, based on the technique of fusion of hydrogen isotopes. To produce it, just theheavy water, which is found everywhere, and does not require a large water requirement. Being a merger, as opposed to the fission, does not create waste or security risks. To stop it, just cut off the energy needed to activate it. It creates a temperature ten times that of the sun, and from this temperature comes the steam that makes the turbines work, and therefore can be connected to existing infrastructures ».
According to Descalzi, “the drop system will bring benefits to other sectors of the economy, from health to food, from education to infrastructure. In short, it could create an after with positive consequences, just think of Africa and the impact on deforestation. It is a system that would guarantee electricity at very low cost, ending the dependence of some countries on others. In short, the great value is the after, so there could be a rush to adopt it ».
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