Pilkington UK manufactured architectural glass at its factory in St Helens, UK, using hydrogen in a world-first test.
The trial is a key step in the manufacturer’s plans to decarbonize and could see a transition to using hydrogen to power all of the site’s production, which currently uses natural gas.
The change means the float glass furnace – which accounts for the majority of the company’s overall carbon emissions – could operate with dramatically lower emissions.
The objective of the test was to demonstrate that the furnace, in which the glass raw materials are heated to approximately 1600 degrees centigrade, could safely operate at full production without affecting the quality of the product.
Matt Buckley, UK Managing Director of Pilkington UK, which is part of the NSG Group, said: “The trial was a significant success.
“Thanks to NSG’s advanced fuel combustion expertise, along with the team’s preparation and effort, we have been able to achieve a smooth transition between the two different fuels.
“This proves that hydrogen is just as capable as natural gas of achieving excellent melting performance and that it might be possible to operate the furnace with significantly reduced carbon emissions.
“It was in St Helens that the float glass process was developed in 1952, revolutionizing the way glass is made around the world.
“Today, 70 years later, this trial represents another major milestone for the global glass industry and it is only fitting that it has once again been a pioneer here. “
David Parkin, Director of Progressive Energy and Project Director of HyNet North West said: “Industry is vital to the economy, but it is difficult to decarbonize.
“HyNet is focused on removing carbon from industry through a range of technologies, including carbon capture and locking, and the production and use of hydrogen as a low carbon fuel.
“This test at Pilkington in the UK is an important step in demonstrating that it is possible to use hydrogen to power glass production and provides a valuable model for further testing and implementation. “
The three-week trial on the float glass line used around 60 hydrogen tankers, but the longer-term plan is to create a network of hydrogen pipelines to supply major industrial sites, thus avoiding the truck transport.
The initiative is part of the ‘HyNet Industrial Fuel Switching’ project aimed at decarbonising industrial processes in the North West of England.
By 2030, it is expected to reduce 10 million tonnes of carbon per year, which is equivalent to taking four million cars off the road.
In February 2020, the HyNet project received £ 5.3million in funding from BEIS as part of its energy innovation program.