published on 2 May 2006 in energy
Man of the future
Enrico Mattei reminds us of a tenacious and brave man, who was able to gather economic entrepreneur activity, and research on the energy sources with international politic activity.
Since he was young, Enrico Mattei had to face work experiences: at 30 years old he had to begin an autonomy industrial activity by investing his savings in a small firm of chemical products for the textile and tan field.
During the war he militated in the partisan formations with responsible positions and took part of the Command of the Resistance movement of the northern part of Italy. In 1945, following the liberation, Mattei was nominated Commissary of Agip in the high part of Italy, in charge of getting rid of every plant of the oil company of the State. His activity, which was characterized by gas discoveries in the Padana Plane, intense activity for the methane utilization and commercialization and by the devotion for supporting a legislative instrument so it was possible to supervise all the national hydrocarbons, makes him become Eni’s guide.
Mattei’s role as Eni’s president is very relevant for the important stages of the State’s body: the new association formula offered to countries who produce, the containment action done on wasting costs of oil products, the start of a big and modern national oil chemistry industry, overseas export of a qualified planning activity, the constant attention towards social activities.
Enrico Mattei is born in Acqualagna, in the province of Pesaro, on 29 April. He is the second of his father Antonio and mother Angela Galvani’s five children. The family is of modest means: his father, a sergeant in the Carabinieri. With Antonio’s promotion to warrant officer, the Mattei family moves to Matelica in province of Macerata.
His training years
After infant school Enrico goes to a boarding school in Vasto, enrolling as a student in the technical middle school. The family straightened circumstances and his father’s rigid discipline make him eager to leave home and win his economic independence.
Enrico’s father finds him a job in a bed-making factory in Scuriatti. His first task is to smooth the metal for the bed frames with sandpaper; on 1923 he becomes an apprentice at the Fiore tannery in Matelica. Mattei’s career at the tannery is meteoric. He is promoted from factory hand to chemical assistant and then to laboratory chief at the age of only twenty. He also manages to set up a fabric shop for his mother. After military service he returns to Matelica and becomes the tannery owner’s chief assistant.
They soon begin to feel the effects of the general economic crisis and business goes from bad to worse. The Fiore tannery closes.
Mattei moves to Milan, instead he develops his business by setting up his first factory in Milan with his brother and sister. The small workshop produces oil-based emulsifiers for the tanning and textile industries. In 1934 he sets up Industria Chimica Lombarda.
He marries Greta Paulas, in Vienna on 1936.
Years between 1943 and 1944
Mattei gets an accountancy qualification and enrols at the Catholic University.
In May 1943 he meets Giuseppe Spataro, who introduces him into anti-Fascist circles in Milan. After 25 July he and Boldrini join partisan groups in the mountains around Matelica,
Back to Milan he resumes contact with the local Christian Democrats. Impressed by organisational and military skills, they put him in command of their Freedom Volunteer Corps. In 1944 a North Italian military command of the CLNAI is set up, in which Mattei participates on behalf of the Christian Democrats.
His years in Eni
In the uncertain period immediately after the civil war in Italy, Enrico Mattei was given the task of winding up Agip’s affairs and arranging for most of its energy assets to be privatised. He chose to disregard this instruction, seeking instead to achieve what he saw as the fundamental objective of giving Italy its own national oil and gas company to meet the energy needs of households and SMEs at prices significantly lower than those charged by the international oligopolies.
Mattei doubled drilling and made the most of mineral research in the Po Valley, building the alliances necessary, inside the government and the parties, to ensure his goals were reached. After long and tortuous negotiations that had begun in 1947 – among those who wanted to defend private enterprise and those who dreamed of a significant role for the state in the management of the economy – with the creation, in 1953 of Eni, Mattei managed to establish the strategic nature of energy for Italian economic growth and to inspire confidence in the possible miracle of energy independence.
On 27 October Mattei’s Morane Saulnier 760 crashes at Bascapè in the province of Pavia as it flies from Catania to Milan Linate. Mattei, the pilot Irnerio Bertuzzi and the American journalist William McHale are killed.
1945: There is disagreement over the future of Agip. Senior management produces a report that speaks of “concentration” and “liquidation”. Mattei is put in charge of liquidating the company.
As instructed, Mattei, now starts negotiating the sell-off of Agip plant and facilities, but conferring with technicians Mattei wins the trust of the company’s oil experts and geologists and does everything he can to instil pride and confidence in the company’s offices and its future.
Mattei manages to halt the liquidation of Agip and on September 1 joins the Board of Directors. He becomes joint vice-president of Agip on 31 October.
1946: Mattei realises that Caviaga is the key to Italy’s economic and social recovery. Drilling prospecting in the Po Valley resumes. Hopes are pinned on Caviaga 2 and, indeed, large reserves of the much-sought methane are discovered, even if the drilling policy is seen as unrealistic and unlikely to yield significant results.
1947: The production potential of Caviaga 2 reawakens the interest of private oil companies. In this year alone, 421 Italian and foreign companies apply for drilling rights in the Po Valley.
Mattei resigns as vice-president on 9 May and stays on as a director.
1948: On 10 June the government appoints Agip’s new board of directors. Boldrini is president and Mattei joint vice-president, swinging control over the company’s management permanently in his favour. One of the new board’s first decisions is to resume drilling using every means at its disposal.
1949: The Cortemaggiore 2 well discovers gas in January, but despite the abundance of the reserves there are no immediate market prospects. But with amazing speed Mattei conceives and builds a network of gas pipelines in the Po Valley capable of supplying the industrial furnaces of Lombardy’s largest companies with methane. Conflict between the supporters of privatisation and state ownership flares up again. On 22 April the industry minister presents in parliament a draft bill regulating the oil and gas industry. It proposes that private companies should be free to search for oil and gas in the Po Valley. On 13 June, when minister Vanoni is visiting Cortemaggiore, the longed-for crude gushes from the well at last.
1950: With the Caviaga, Ripalta and Cortemaggiore wells already producing gas, a new methane deposit is discovered at Cornegliano after a period of intensive exploration in which around forty wells are drilled.
1951: On 13 July Segni presents an ENI bill in parliament on behalf of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
1952: At Mattei’s urging, the Agip subsidiary Mineraria Somala is set up, marking the company’s return to overseas operations after the forced interruption of the war.
1953: On 21 January the Senate approves the law that creates ENI and enables it to take over Agip. ENI’s sheer complexity is something totally new for Italian politicians and entrepreneurs of the time.
The famous six-legged dog becomes its logo. The original competition-winning design had only four legs, but Mattei had another two added to make the dog a “six-legged friend of four-wheeled people”.
1954: Eleven gas deposits are discovered in the Po Valley and two in Sicily. At the end of the year Mattei, who sees Egypt as an interesting area for oil exploration and its leader as a “new man”, is granted an audience with President Nasser of Egypt. They soon reach agreement.
1955: To carry out its operations in Egypt, Agip acquires a major holding in IEOC, which is already operating in the country and discovered two oil deposits.
1956: Mattei creates Agip Nucleare, which designs a gas-cooled natural uranium power station with the aid of a British company.
Agip develops and expands its overseas trading operations.
Mattei sponsors a new daily, Il giorno, to fight off criticism of the company, himself and his political policies.
1957: A new law governing hydrocarbon exploration and production In Italy comes into force. IEOC discovers its third petroleum deposit . An agreement is made with to set up the Italo-Iranian company Sirip. Agip Mineraria agrees to fund exploration while Sirip agrees to develop and exploit any reserves that are found. An additional clause stipulates that fifty per cent of Sirip’s net profits will go to the Iranian government, and the other fifty per cent will be divided equally between Agip Mineraria and NIOC. The result is that, for the first time, an oil-producing country secures for itself a profit of around 75%, significantly better than the fifty-fifty formula already regarded as “revolutionary”, and is also actively involved in the production process. This type of agreement has come to be known as the Mattei Formula.
In March Mattei has talks in Tripoli with the Libyan prime minister Mustafa Ben Halim and signs an agreement for an oil concession in the Fezzan area.
1958: Agip develops its business in Iran, Somalia, Egypt and, for the first time, in Morocco. ENI starts refining abroad as well as in Italy, leading to continuous enlargement and improvement of its Irom and Stanic refineries.
Work starts on a nuclear power station at Latina, completed in 1962.
1959: The Gela Mare 21 platform starts offshore drilling for the first time in Europe. Oil exploration begins in Sudan.
1960: The most important of the year’s fourteen discoveries is the Ravenna Mare find, Europe’s first offshore natural gas field. Agip signs its first agreement in Tunisia, and Mattei starts canvassing for a gas agreement with Algeria.
1961: Sitep, an oil company owned 50-50 by Agip and the Tunisian government, is set up. Work starts on an oil pipeline in Central Europe. Mattei, the brain behind the operation, brings in Snam, Snam Progetti and Saipem to design and build it.
In accordance with Mattei’s wishes, ENI signs a long-term agreement with the USSR to import millions of tons of crude annually at an exceptionally low price in exchange for Italian finished goods, creating an outlet for some of ENI’s chemical, mechanical and textile products and Snam Progetti’s engineering and design capability. Strangled by the Seven Sisters’ pricing policies, Mattei has had no option but to turn to Moscow. His agreement with the USSR is controversial, however, and unleashes a furious row.
1962: On 8 January, before taking off for Morocco with Mattei, the pilot discovers during a routine check that a screwdriver has been fixed to some sheet-metal tubing inside the plane with adhesive tape. The heat from the engine would have dissolved the adhesive, causing the screwdriver to fall into the engine and make it seize up. Mattei fears for his safety. Concluding that Sifar (Servizio Informazioni Forze Armate), the military intelligence organisation, can no longer be trusted, he employs a group of former partisans as bodyguards.
On 27 October Mattei’s Morane Saulnier 760 crashes at Bascapè in the province of Pavia as it flies from Catania to Milan Linate. Mattei, the pilot, Irnerio Bertuzzi, and the American journalist William McHale are killed.