(by Maria Grazia Marilotti) Cagliari, May 7 - Italian energy group Saras is one of Europe's leading independent operators in the oil refining sector. Its history begins with an intuition. Back in 1962, the late Angelo Moratti identified a strategic position at the centre of the Mediterranean, right along the route of big tankers, from which crude oil could be acquired and refined products distributed. The Sarroch refinery was thus born along the southwestern coast of the Gulf of Cagliari, right in the middle of the 'Mare Nostrum'. Built at a time of crisis, it was welcomed locally for the number of jobs it created: 1,200 direct employees, another 800 through controlled companies and over 3,000 workers employed by industries working for the refinery. Sustainability, health, the environment and security are the main values promoted through the adoption of an integrated management system, the company says. Saras calls the production capacity and complexity of the machinery are "a model of efficiency and environmental sustainability". With its 50 years of history, Saras has become a true giant, refining 15 million tons of raw material a year - 300,000 barrels a day. The company now covers 15% of Italy's total oil-distillation capacity. Both through direct sales and controlled companies - Arcola Petrolifera Spa and Deposito di Arcola Srl in Italy and its controlled company in Spain Saras Energia Spa - the group sells on the Italian, European and extra-European markets diesel oil, gas, fuel for heating, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), virgin nafta and aviation fuel. Although oil refinement and its commercialization remain the core business, the facility has also started producing electrical energy in the past decade. It produces four billion kWh of electrical energy on an annual basis, covering over 30% of Sardinia's energy needs. Saras has also invested in renewable energy sources. With its controlled company Sardeolica Srl, Saras has the wind farm Ulassai, with an installed capacity of 96 MW. The group has also invested in scientific research and industrial engineering in the oil sector, energy and the environment through its Sartec Spa. Its controlled company Sargas Srl is also active in research, transport, storage and the commercialization of gaseous hydrocarbons. Given the critical phase of the oil refining market throughout Europe - the drastic decline of demand for oil products on one side and the greater profitability of Middle Eastern competitors on the other - Saras Group has not been unprepared, but says it has elaborated strategies able to focus its industrial choices on research and top operational performances. In particular, the 'Focus Project' has been active since 2010 in the Refining sector, an asset-management programme aimed at cutting costs and improving production efficiency and the effectiveness of industrial operations.