Sheet glass has been produced using hydrogen fuel at a plant near Liverpool, in an achievement that has been touted by developers as a world first and a major milestone in industrial manufacturing's transition towards net zero emissions.
Progressive Energy, one of a raft of companies involved in the HyNet project to decarbonise industrial sites in the North West, announced last week that hydrogen fuel had successfully replaced fossil gas in the manufacture of float glass at a facility owned by Pilkington UK in the town of St Helen's in Merseyside. The achievement is believed to be the first full-scale, 100 per cent hydrogen trial on a float glass line.
"This full-scale production trial over several weeks successfully demonstrated that it is possible to use hydrogen to safely and effectively fire a float glass plant," said Matt Buckley, managing director of Pilkington UK. "We now look forward to the HyNet concept becoming a reality."
Glass manufacturing is an energy and emissions-intensive sector, with high temperature melting furnaces accounting for roughly 85 per cent of fossil fuels used at plants, according to statistics cited in a 2017 government report. Like cement, chemicals, and steel, the industrial sector relies heavily on fossil fuels and processes that are notoriously difficult and expensive to decarbonise. Switching furnaces from fossil gas to low carbon hydrogen fuel is regarded as one of the most promising ways to decarbonise the sector.
The trial at St Helen's is just one of several projects underway as part of HyNet's industrial fuel-switching programme, which aims to test whether low carbon hydrogen fuel could ultimately displace fossil fuels in industrial manufacturing processes, it said.
A separate trial, set to take place later this year with Unilever, will test whether a commercial scale boiler at the consumer goods giant's Port Sunlight factory can similarly run on the low carbon fuel.