Pilkington UK Ltd
, part of the NSG group, has successfully manufactured architectural glass at its St Helens facility using hydrogen power in a world-first trial that is a key step in the manufacturer’s plans to decarbonise and could see a transition to using hydrogen to power all production at the site, which currently uses natural gas.
The switch means that the float glass furnace, which accounts for the majority of the company’s overall carbon emissions, would be able to run with ‘hugely lower emissions’. The aim of the trial was to demonstrate that the furnace, in which the raw ingredients of the glass are heated to around 1,600degC, could run safely at full production without impacting product quality.
Matt Buckley, Pilkington UK’s managing director, said: “The trial was a significant success. Thanks to NSG’s advanced fuel combustion expertise, and the preparation and efforts of the team, we managed to achieve a seamless transition between the two different fuels.
“It proves that hydrogen is just as capable as natural gas in achieving excellent melting performance, and that it could be possible to operate the furnace with vastly reduced carbon emissions.
“Decarbonisation of the construction supply chain is a vital part of the UK’s ambition to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050, and the ability to produce float glass in this way is an important step in this journey.”
David Parkin, a director of Progressive Energy and project director of HyNet North West, said: “Industry is vital for the economy but is difficult to decarbonise. HyNet is focused on removing carbon from industry through a range of technologies including the capturing and locking up of carbon and the production and use of hydrogen as a low-carbon fuel.
“This trial at Pilkington UK is a significant step in demonstrating that is it possible to use hydrogen to power glass production and provides a valuable blueprint for further trials and implementation.”
The three-week trial on the float glass line used about 60 road tankers of hydrogen, but the longer-term plan is to create a network of hydrogen pipelines to supply key industrial sites, avoiding the need for road transport.