In March 2013 Versalis (Eni) and Pirelli signed an important Memorandum of Understanding to undertake a joint research project on the use of natural rubber from guayule in tyre production. The guayule (Parthenium argentatum) is a non-edible shrub that needs little water and no pesticides, and represents an alternative source to natural rubber thanks to its hypoallergenic properties, unlike the more common Hevea brasiliensis rubber.
This study will engage the two firms for a period of three years. During that time, and operating on an exclusive basis between the parties, Versalis will provide innovative types of natural rubber extracted from guayule that will be tested by Pirelli for use in tyre production.
On the basis of this new collaboration and, upon industrial scale production of rubber from guayule, Versalis may provide Pirelli with new products that will consolidate and round out the commercial range of synthetic rubber made by Versalis and already used by Pirelli for quite some time in tyre production.
The agreement with Versalis will complement and expand the commitment made by Pirelli to research on innovative materials from renewable sources, and particularly from biomasses. Pirelli, which already makes tyres using raw materials derived from rice husks (as discussed in the following section), aims at steadily reducing petroleum-derived components by replacing them with new raw materials that simultaneously guarantee constant improvement in the performance and environmental sustainability of processes and products.