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Searching energy, finding culture

Editorial Staff

05 October 2022

Italy after the Second World War is country poor in resources with a blocked and disastrous social and economic landscape. In this scenario, Enrico Mattei, appointed extraordinary commissioner of Agip in 1945, realized that the main lever for reconstruction and development was to aim for the country's energy independence, in order to guarantee competitive costs compared to the international market. The great discoveries of methane in the Pianura Padana, the construction of gas pipelines in record time, and industries starting up again were the signs of a country that was moving towards to the extraordinary years of the economic boom. But gas was not enough. There is a need for oil, the oil that was hoped to be find in the Pianura Padana and which instead proved insufficient. So, Eni began its adventure abroad by competing with the big oil companies, the "seven sisters", a real cartel able to control the international oil market. The main tool Enrico Mattei used to win the trust of producing countries could be summed up in one word: "collaboration", a new approach based on respect, transfer of skills, and support for development.

"To aim for the country's energy independence"

The first research abroad and the Mattei formula

In 1954, the first country he turned to was Nasser's Egypt. It's here that for the first time Eni applied a new contractual formula, later to become known in history as the "Mattei formula", which would revolutionize the oil industry. The new agreement provides for equal participation in the extraction and marketing of crude oil and greater share in the profit through the establishment of a joint venture between Eni and the host country. In this way the Egyptians (but soon the Iranians, the Tunisians, the Libyans, the Algerians) will work together with the Italians, acquiring all the know-how necessary to build their own national oil industry. Mattei, with his skills, also exports a quality that he knows well and that he transferred to Eni: pride. He made African countries, which had recently emerged from the colonial era, realize the importance, not only economic, of being holders of energy sources. Pride, skills and courage will ensure within a few years, the producing countries become aware of the extraordinary heritage they had at their disposal, leading them to found OPEC in 1960.

"Mattei, exports a quality that he knows well and that he transferred to Eni: pride"

Local customs and traditions

In the Eni historical archive, the traces of this new way of understanding the relations with foreign countries is mainly documented by the many photographic and audiovisual testimonies in which it's the culture of the people that speaks. In addition to the photographs of a technical nature entrusted to geologists, there are other shots that aim to bring back home all the information that will make it easier to come into contact with local customs and traditions: the way of dressing, houses, food, even festivals. A unique anthropological heritage among the archives of oil companies active in the 1950s in Africa and the Middle East. The aim of getting in touch, of respecting the culture of others, of working side by side but never prevaricating, will be the business card of Eni's people. That Eni's way that has made us and continues to make us recognizable, throughout the world.

"A unique anthropological heritage in the archives of oil companies"