The trial 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 1,600 degrees centigrade, could run safely at full production without impacting product quality.
Matt Buckley, UK MD of Pilkington United Kingdom Limited, part of the NSG Group, 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.
“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.”