DISTILLERIA DI FERRARA
The origin of this impressive site are still unclear, mostly because its initial development was strictly related to war industry. In the late 1930s three facts paved the way to the creation of the factory. Firstly, in 1935 the alcohol manufacturing company Distillerie Italiane obtained from the national government the permission to set up a chemical plant near its alcohol distillery at Pontelagoscuro, a suburb of Ferrara on the Po river shores - already home of several sugar refineries. The purpose of such a factory was to use ethanol to synthesize acetic solvents (acetaldehyde, acetone, ethyl acetate, etc.) and glycerin. Secondly, a special industrial zone was created in 1936 in the west periphery of Ferrara. Equipped with roads, railways, canals and dockyards, the area was soon occupied by new industries, mainly chemical and agrochemical. Thirdly, the decision in 1939 to establish within the latter the first synthetic rubber factory of Italy. The project, promoted by Pirelli and IRI, was based on the Lebedev process which used as raw material ethyl alcohol - in this case, extracted from sugar refining by-products such as molasses. The rubber factory, run by SAIGS-Società Anonima Industria Gomma Sintetica, was put in operation in 1942.
What happened then? The original intent to establish a chemical plant by Distillerie Italiane was realized with some relevant differences: the plant had to be a large integrated alcohol distillery and had to be located within the new industrial zone. The alcohol here produced to obtain acetic compounds and other strategic products had to supply the SAIGS rubber plant as well as being used as "autarchic" fuel for the Italian Air Force. The massive project was managed by a subsidiary of Distillerie Italiane called FIDA-Fabbrica Italiana Derivati Acetilene. The construction began in early 1940s but was suddenly interrupted in 1944 due to repeated air bombings by the Allied Forces, which partially destroyed the site.
After the war two out of the three above mentioned conditions were vanished: extra fuel for the Air Force was not necessary anymore and, most important, the synthetic rubber factory never went back to operation after the forced stop in 1944 (the former SAIGS site was then taken over by Montecatini and transformed into a large methane-based petrochemical plant). Anyway, Distillerie Italiane decided to resume the original FIDA project and, once converted to civil purposes, to follow through. As result, in 1953 the largest Italian alcohol distillery was operational. Beyond ethanol the factory was able to produce dry ice, yeast, glycerine and recovered sugar through molasses desugarization. In 1967 Distillerie Italiane ceased to exist after the takeover by Eridania sugar company. At the time, the Ferrara distillery accounted 37% of the whole national production of ethanol with a capacity of 23,000,000 of l/y, plus 18,000 t/y of yeast and 5,500 t/y of carbon dioxide. In 1976 the old distillation unit was replaced by a Speichim one, able to reach the daily capacity of 100,000 l. The latter, in turn, was replaced by a Mazzoni unit (220,000 l/d) in 1990.
Fully depending from the national (and local) sugar industry, the distillery faced a significative decline from the early 2000s. At first run by Alceste - a company founded in 2003 by Sacofin, the financial holding controlling Eridania - it was transferred to Alcoplus in 2005. The latter, created by Alceste and Caviro (a cooperative of wine producers), aimed to reconvert the production towards bio-ethanol. The project never went operational due to the drastic cut of Italian sugar refineries caused by a UE directive (EC 320/2006) and thus the site was abandoned.
Scafuri, F. (2006), "La zona industriale di Ferrara tra il 1937 e il 1951", in La Pianura, n. 3, pp. 38-45.
Trincheri, G. (2001), Industrie chimiche in Italia dalle origini al 2000, Arvan, Mira.