Architectural glass has been produced at a UK facility powered by hydrogen as part of a world first trial.
Pilkington UK, part of the NSG group and behind the project, said the aim of the trial was to demonstrate that the furnace, in which the raw ingredients of the glass are heated to around 1,600 degrees centigrade, could run safely at full production without impacting product quality.
The three-week trial on the float glass line used approximately 60 road tankers of hydrogen.
Pilkington UK said the longer-term plan is to create a network of hydrogen pipelines to supply key industrial sites, avoiding the need for road transport.
The initiative is part of the ‘HyNet Industrial Fuel Switching’ project to decarbonise industrial processes across the North West.
By 2030, it is expected to cut 10 million tonnes of carbon per year – the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.
The success of the trial means Pilkington UK could transition to using hydrogen to power all production at the St Helens, Merseyside site, currently powered by natural gas.
“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,” said Matt Buckley, UK Managing Director of Pilkington UK.
“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.”
Buckley added, “It was in St Helens that the float glass process was developed in 1952, revolutionising how glass is made around the world.
“Now, 70 years later, this trial represents another major milestone for the global glass industry and it’s appropriate that it has once again been pioneered here.”