| 1. The Beginning
Andrea Rossi was born in 1950 on the 3d of June, in Milan.
During his school holidays, from 1957 to 1968, he worked in his father Luigi’s workshop, which specialized in metal carpentry. He learned how to use all the major carpentry tools (welding machines, lathes, hydraulic benders, shears, etc…). He learned to design and build many kinds of machines and how to organize factory work.
During this period nothing special happened. Rossi spent at least 8 hours a day studying, and played sports (athletics: he was Italian road-running champion in 1970, and in 1969 held the Junior World Record for the 24-hour run).
In school he had a special talent for Physics and Chemistry; he enrolled in the University of Milan in order to improve his knowledge of science and its origin from a mathematical-philosophical point of view; he attended prof. Ludovico Geymonat’s special course in the Philosophy of Science.
In 1973, Rossi graduated in Philosophy at the University of Milan with a dissertation on Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and its interrelationship with Husserl’s Phenomenology (Honors Degree: 110/110).
In 1979, Rossi was awarded a degree in Chemical Engineering from Kensington University, California (USA), thanks to the numerous professional credits earned there for the many registered patents he acquired since the first years of his professional career.
From the beginning of his career Rossi continued his research into systems for recovering energy from waste.
In 1974, he registered a patent for an incineration system with a post-combustion turbine.
He studied river purification (see: The Incineration of Waste and Smoke Purification [L’incenerimento dei rifiuti e la depurazione dei fumi], a book published in 1978 by Tecniche Nuove, Milan); in 1977, registered a patent for a new high-temperature filter cleaner — in defense of the intellectual property thereof — a lawsuit for patent infringement was filed and won against Bayer Leverkusen.
In order to produce patented equipment within the family-owned plant “La Metallotecnica”, Rossi created the “Dragon” division, which specialized in the production of waste incinerators with energy recovery, and of smoke purification plants.
In order to compete with worldwide competitors and to achieve even better results, Rossi continued his rigorous study on the use and development of chemical and physical processes related to these technologies. The relevant results have been widely discussed in his book The Incineration of Waste and River Purification, published in Milan by Tecniche Nuove in 1978; this publication has also been adopted as an auxiliary text in the Chemical Plants course held at the Polytechnic Institute of Milan.
Worldwide, in the years between 1971 and 1996, Dragon built some 1500 waste incineration plants with energy recovery. Between 1975 and 1996 it set up approximately 200 purification plants.
2. Fuel from Waste – The Birth of Petroldragon
Rossi’s passion for research and innovation endured: in 1978 — in a social and historical context where the problem of energy sources had become quite topical — he focused on the possibility of turning organic waste in a liquid very similar to that oil which is extracted every day from the deepest layers of the earth’s crust.
It is common knowledge that plant and animal organic wastes are processed over time into oil by the extremely high pressure exerted by the force of gravity, as well as by the temperature gradients stemming from the ever-molten core in the center of the Earth. Much in the same manner, Rossi contemplated the possibility of creating the necessary environmental conditions for this process artificially, by speeding up those chemical and physical transformations occurring in nature over a time span of whole geological eras. In a manner of speaking, he wanted to simulate a job that takes our planet several million years to complete.
There were countless difficulties and technical obstacles to be faced in order to turn this insight to a practical, repeatable, and inexpensive procedure. Lengthy studies and repeated attempts led to the development of a technology which was able to simulate the phenomenon that occurs in the heart of the earth, by subjecting waste to repeated pressures and changes of temperature in a reducing atmosphere until a mixture of fuel oil, coal and gas was obtained (the latter being used to power the process itself).
This innovative technology was patented by the Cicogna Patent Office [Ufficio Brevetti Cicogna] of Milan in 1978.
People interested in an in-depth knowledge of the events concerning these difficult beginnings and in a more complete view of the process, may read the following books:
Oil from Waste , [Petrolio dai rifiuti], Sugarco Editrice, Milan 1980.
In the Name of Oil [In nome del petrolio], GEI-Rizzoli, Milan 1983; reprint: Mondadori, Milan 1985.
The revolutionary potential of this project was clear from the very first; in a few months, Petroldragon — this being the name of the company which was established to develop and implement the technology — was able to produce, albeit by means of a yet rather makeshift and primitive apparatus, two tons of oil from ten tons of organic wastes — that is to say, that fraction of municipal waste consisting of paper, wood, plastic, food, and the like.
In 1978, with Rossi’s investment already on the level of several hundred million Lire, the technology for the production of oil from waste was finalized, and the transforming apparatus was, for all intents and purposes, in working order.
3. The Refluopetrolio Media Boom
News about the product quickly reached the media, which praised its potential right from the beginning.
On television, the national news, such as TG1 [Telegiornale 1], talked about it; on paper, it got written up by the Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, Il Sole 24 Ore, Il Giorno, Il Giornale and almost all the local newspapers, as well as by magazines such as L’Espresso, Panorama, Oggi, Gente , and others. News of the Rossi procedure were reported by nearly all the major Italian newspapers.
Soon, the product manufactured by Petroldragon came to be known as Refluopetrolio.
Not long thereafter the news arrived overseas, where U.S. President Jimmy Carter showed his interest in the technology, and right away offered Rossi a permanent entry visa to the United States, in the hopes of convincing him to move to the U.S. to further develop his work. Rossi accepted the invitation to come to the U.S., but he stayed in Washington D.C. for for only a few weeks, as he was still convinced he could refine his invention in his mother country.
In 1983 Rossi, whose success was by now well established, looked to further development of his idea, and, after ten months’ work and a financial investment of half a billion Lire, set up a facility that produced twenty tons of fuel oil a day, transforming one hundred tons of organic waste.
4. The Qualitative Leap and the Acquisition of Omar Refinery
From the very start, Rossi’s invention allowed the transformation of organic waste into oil, which was subsequently sold to companies specialized in refining in order to make commonly used products such as fuel oils and solvents. Thus, refineries have always been Petroldragon’s typical client.
In 1990 Rossi began to realize the importance of his invention, as well as how its possible applications, once widely distributed, might gain world-wide recognition. He decided to work directly on the manufacture of the end product, and, with a financial investment of more than 4 billion Lire backed by a line of credit with various banks, he bought Omar Refinery.
Omar was ideally suited to treat Petroldragon products, as it had originally been a refinery specialized in lubricating oils. It had a very expensive vacuum distillation column made entirely of stainless steel, an instrument of great importance for processing the product.
By transforming oil coming from Petroldragon, in a short time Omar became an independent producer of finished products such as fuel, oil and solvents, which had previously been manufactured by other companies.
5. Petroldragon Associate Companies
To ensure a continuous supply of such indispensable raw material (waste), Petroldragon set up a complex supply network, stipulating contracts with many large Italian companies. These were selected among those companies producing, as part of their normal activities, large amounts of waste that best suited, in type and quality, the transformation processes created by Rossi.
The type of collected waste essentially consisted of refuse matter from industrial organic materials such as plastics, rubber, spent solvents as well as food processing waste, etc.
Among the many Petroldragon customers we find Unicem, Cementificio di Merone, Lombardi Solventi (solvents), Cartiera di Sora (paper mill), etc. These companies used the Petroldragon product, refined by Omar, as fuel or as raw material for the production of solvents.
Petroldragon sold its products for about 30% less compared to similar fossil-derived products on the market.
The Petroldragon process benefited from continued support and advice by Milan Polytechnic University, with which Petroldragon had a research cooperation agreement.
In particular, Prof. Paolo Centola, expert in chemical plants, was the main contact on the Polytechnic side for this collaboration.
6. Plans for the Future
Building on the results of Petroldragon and Omar, Rossi began to think of ways to realize a dream: the creation of a fuel product targeting cars and trucks, whose importance was so prominent among energy sources for the Italian economy.
In Rossi’s plants, the idea of moving cars and transportation in general using the proven reprocess of waste from human society began to take shape. The new type of fuel would complement or replace fossil petroleum derivatives. A public information campaign was launched.
On the refinery premises, a small race track about one kilometer long was built on an experimental basis. There, several Fiat 131 cars without license plates began to make laps powered by a diesel oil – like fuel made from food processing waste.
In 1993, the Petroldragon Formula 3 racing team featuring Alfa Romeo single-seat cars was born.
The Petroldragon car maintained an respectful track record, consistently finishing the races with a mid-field placement. Without overly serious ambitions in racing, this car powered by waste-derived fuel was able to compete with cars powered by the most common petroleum products. This was a proof, asserting the product of Rossi as a real alternative to fossil fuels.
Rossi, Petroldragon and Omar are the pioneers of research in this field, which many years later led to the production of today’s biodiesel, now regularly used in diesel fuels.
At that time, the Omar-Petroldragon group of companies was valuated at around 50 billion lire by expert economists.
7. The U-Turn
Until 1987 the raw materials used by Petroldragon for the production of fuel oil was considered secondary refuse matter, meaning waste from processing of raw materials, or other materials resulting from the recovery and recycling of waste. At that time, products derived from these materials were exempted from requiring any permission for waste disposal.
Without any warning and any explanation, suddenly all secondary materials similar to those obtained and used by Petroldragon were considered toxic waste. Consequently, all products derived therefrom were considered toxic waste as well. The activities of acquisition, storage, handling of such materials and products suddenly required government permits and government concessions. Since before that date, this never had been a requirement, Petroldragon obviously did not have permits or licenses for waste treatment.
Up to then, Petroldragon activities were always in conformance from a public authorities point of view. They were now suddenly considered illegal and unauthorized. By legislative decree, in a very short time, all equipment was sequestered. The government then determined that tanks used for storing incoming raw materials were illegal dumps of toxic waste.
From this moment on, and for many years to follow, Rossi was subjected to an endless number of arrests and prosecutions.
It is interesting to note that right from the start of business, all incoming raw materials and all outgoing final products of the Petroldragon and Omar plants had always been subject to rigorous monitoring by the “Guardia di Finanza”, since the final products are subject to a production tax. This means that all incoming and outgoing waste products had been steadily and continuously sampled and analyzed by the Ministry of Finance.
During its period of activity, Petroldragon-Omar paid the state more than 2 billion Lire in production taxes, because their end product had always been considered a fuel, subject to a specific production tax on fuels.
It is quite paradoxical that on one hand, the Italian state has collected billions of Lire from Rossi companies in taxes for years, thereby confirming that indeed, the products belonged in the fuel category, subjected to fuel tax. On the other hand, the state then outlawed the same activities by fiat, even retroactively, activities which had been generating such large amounts of tax revenue.
In this way the Italian state seems to be an accomplice in a “criminal association” conspiracy, fully aware of the modus operandi from the beginning: more precisely still, acting as its regulating and controlling authority.
8. An annoying invention
The sudden policy reversal of regulatory authorities, forbidding a previously explicitly accepted and even taxed activity, brought both the Omar and the Petroldragon plants to confront — at same time and by strange coincidence — an unexpected opposition. A politically organized public opinion campaign developed, singling out Rossi as an environment polluter and tax evader.
Environmental organizations rose up against "the polluter" Rossi and a smear campaign was initiated in order to destroy the man, the companies and all the work done so far.
By now, Rossi was a major player in the field of petroleum products, thanks to his work and research conducted in the Omar and Petroldragon plants. Thinking about it in hindsight, one cannot avoid noticing the time coincidence between the war against Rossi and the clear decision on the part of leading crime organizations to enter the business of waste management in order to gain a monopoly.
The purpose of “waste treatment process” on the part by crime organizations is actually the unregulated and illegal burial of waste in landfill (in Campania) with subsequent polluting of agricultural land and groundwater. This modus operandi and its timeline, as many famous writers and journalists have unveiled [reference to Saviano’s Gomorra], is by now well documented and sheds new truth on the mysteries and cover-ups of the past.
In the same time period, the Petroldragon and Omar factories waste processing methods were starting to compete with actual petroleum-based producers and as well as with organizations that were making money exploiting unregulated waste management.
Rossi’s successes suddenly became a major cause of lower earnings on the part of his competitors, and he was targeted as an enemy for people who were seeking to control the waste management business in the North of Italy.
9. The persecution
Suddenly the materials processed at Petroldragon for the production of fuel oil became subjected to waste management regulations: the company, of course did not have the related permits and clearances, and the activities were deemed illegal. The same administrative action happened to the the final products: they were previously considered as petroleum fuel for refinery processes, but now they were to be considered as waste. But even the Omar plants lacked the necessary permits.
Even more, the Omar plant products, previously accepted and taxed as industry grade fuel, became classified as waste and all the customers already storing them in warehouses and factories found themselves without the required authorizations, and therefore outlawed.
The Petroldragon, Omar and customer plants were all seized by authorities and eventually released only if they commited to stop acquisition and processing of Omar/Petroldragon products.
All the credit lines were revoked by the same banks Rossi had always done business with.
The credit conditions and sales disruption brought the abrupt shutdown of all company operations and income sources.
The group's situation was critical. What followed was Rossi's arrest and imprisonment, without any possibility to save the companies. The massive media smear campaign was successful in suddenly wiping out companies whose brand value was estimated at 50 billion lire (around 30-35 million USD in 1987) and which employed 150 people.
There is no need to describe the psychological state of Rossi, sued and imprisoned, watching every day as his reputation and the long years of his efforts were attacked. The smear campaign was carried on public TV broadcasting and showed organized rallies against his plants where large deposits of materials, previously ready to become oil fuel, were now turning in toxic waste graveyards.
The media did not give Rossi a fair chance to express his own views; his operations involving waste transformation were not an unregulated activity intended to evade disposal costs or violate environmental regulations.
This confirmed the interest of the market for Rossi's efforts and, above all, demonstrated that customers had already managed to overcome the prejudice tied to this “magical product,” thanks to Rossi's years of work, injuries, humiliations, fights.
Needless to say: any refinery that is seized and closed would not appear to be a repository of industrial materials but instead a repository of toxic waste - which they are if not transformed.
Even a car tank, if abandoned, would become a toxic waste deposit just because the gasoline would no longer be usable for an automotive fuel and therefore considered a waste, toxic and dangerous because of the very same chemical features of gasoline.
10. The Surrender - End of a dream
After the companies were closed or seized, it is easy to understand that the banks not only refused any loan requests, but also demanded immediate return of all previously granted money, the credit allowance that helped to fund the research and development and machinery building and equipment purchase.
It’s easy to estimate the large amount of money needed fund the exponential growth of the cleanup operations that were taking place.
Rossi gave to the banks, as collateral for the loans, personal and family assets worth 50 billion lire (30-35 millions USD in 1987). These were seized and managed by the bankruptcy receivers. A finance nightmare hit all of Rossi's companies one by one and caused his bankruptcy.
Rossi found himself completely stripped of any property and lost all his money.
Government authorities enforced the assessment and remediation of any possible environmental damage and some third-party companies were charged with the task of disposal of the already-refined products and raw materials that Petroldragon and Omar would have profited from, but were instead forced to be disposed as toxic waste.
The government-enforced disposal was contracted in only a few days and this was very strange because such awards normal take a long time to be contracted. Also, the cost of this disposal procedure was extremely suspicious: in the 1990s, Petroldragon and Omar payed about 400 lire per kilogram for waste that was to be transformed in their facilities. The government-enforced disposal costs reached, for the same kind of treatment, the absurd level of 1500 lire per kilogram, clearly beyond any market bound.
Everybody can draw their own conclusion about this abnormal difference in price.
Even the time to allocate the funds for the expensive environmental remediation was somehow strange and very short -- usually years are needed -- even in case of similar “environmental emergencies.” It is clear that the funding was already planned and prepared long before the unfolding of the events that led Rossi to prison. Also, for this circumstance everyone can draw his own deductions.
Again it should be noted the strange coincidence of timing between these events and the beginning of the Camorra crime organization entry in the waste management business.
All of the above have been widely documented and demonstrated during Rossi's court trials.
In the past 17 years, Rossi has been in 56 trials, forcing him into deep debt because of the financial disaster, and it is still not completely paid off.
Of all 56 prosecutions, the ones which led to imprisonment ended with acquittals; only 5 of the prosecutions for tax crime ended with convictions (with some custody imprisonments). All of the other prosecutions ended with acquittal or for statute of limitation. The same Petroldragon and Omar customers, even those who suffered factory seizures or prosecutions because of involvement with Rossi's companies, testified as witnesses in favor of the defendant.
Despite the acquittals and despite having fulfilled the promises about the production processes, the industrial activity was inexorably compromised and nothing could be done to recover the situation.
In December of 1996 Rossi, without a penny, emigrated to the USA and took employment in a company specializing in systems for energy production from biomass: the Bio Development Corporation in Bedford, New Hampshire.
He let the company use his previous patents and after a few months he was appointed Chief Scientist.
Bio Development had professional relationship with the U.S. Department of Energy to research renewable energy sources and from this basis, Rossi's collaboration started.
Rossi’s contribution was relevant: many new patent applications were filed, in his name, about energy production from non-fossil sources.
The methods developed during his work at Petroldragon and Omar plants led to very important contributions to bio-fuel production technologies and even today many biomass plants are based on those processes.
In 2000 Rossi realized an important plant for production of charcoal from wood waste in Chicago but, while starting the construction, he had to face another trouble caused by the Italian government. During a journey back to Italy from the U.S., when he landing at Rome airport, he was served an arrest warrant for bankruptcy of Omar company and immediately imprisoned.
Rossi was released only after a long judicial procedural battle. During this time of forced residence in Italy, Rossi developed the technology of electricity production from biomass, then elaborated in the US.
In the meanwhile he kept professional relationships with people in the U.S. and started working with LTI (Leonardo Technology Incorporated) a company providing technology and equipment to DOE and DOD for the production of energy from renewable sources.
In 2009 Rossi went back to the U.S. permanently and he directed the development of a new energy source, patented by himself, to which the U.S. institutions assigned the priority status.