Hydrogen-fired glass is a world first

In the trials, at Pilkington UK’s St Helens facility, the hydrogen completely replaces the natural gas fossil fuel normally used in the manufacturing process, significantly cutting carbon emissions.

With industry accounting for around 25% of all the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, reducing these emissions is vital if the country is to reach net zero. However, cleaning up energy intensive industry stands as one of the toughest challenges to meet. Emissions from industry, such as glass making, can be especially hard to reduce – a barrier which is one step closer to being overcome through this trial.

This is believed to be the first large-scale demonstration of 100% hydrogen firing in a live float (sheet) glass production environment anywhere in the world. The ground-breaking ‘HyNet Industrial Fuel Switching’ project, led by Progressive Energy, with hydrogen being provided by BOC, will provide confidence that low carbon hydrogen can replace natural gas.

The HyNet Industrial Fuel Switching programme was awarded funding of £5.3M from BEIS through its Energy Innovation Programme in February 2020 and the Pilkington UK trial is one of several projects underway in North-West England to test how hydrogen can replace fossil fuels in manufacturing.  A further HyNet trial is being held at Unilever in Port Sunlight later this year. Together, the demonstrations will support industry across sectors such as glass, food, drink, power and waste to convert to low carbon hydrogen.

Hydrogen-fired innovation

Matt Buckley, UK MD of Pilkington United Kingdom Limited, part of the NSG Group, said: “Pilkington UK, and St Helens, are once again at the forefront of innovation in industry with this world first hydrogen trial on a float glass line. The HyNet project would be a massive step to support our decarbonisation activities. 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. We now look forward to the HyNet concept becoming a reality.”

David Parkin, 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.”