Pilkington’s hydrogen blend-run furnace hailed a success

Pilkington UK, in St Helens, has successfully completed a pioneering project using a blend of hydrogen with natural gas to run a furnace for five days.

The successful demonstration proved that the full furnace could be run safely on the hydrogen blend, without compromising quality standards or operational performance.   

Each day during the trial, two tonnes of hydrogen were consumed, which could have provided an equivalent hydrogen blend to approximately 30,000 average-sized homes. This new demonstration follows on from the news that, back in August, Pilkington achieved a global first by firing 100% hydrogen in part of the furnace, as reported on by Renewable Energy Installer.

The project was hailed a success by leaders who were gathered in St Helens to further drive the conversation on the Decarbonised Glass Alliance’s (DGA) Hydrogen roadshow on its way to Glasgow for COP26. 

The DGA event brought together HyNet and HyDeploy project team members with industry and local stakeholders to discuss the region’s innovative hydrogen activities and development.  

Home to glass-making since 1826, Pilkington UK’s Greengate site in St Helens has recently undertaken two ground-breaking demonstrations of using hydrogen to replace natural gas.  

The event marked the latest leg of a UK-wide roadshow, demonstrating the role that hydrogen will play in helping meet the UK’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Speaking about the roadshow, DGA chair Chris Barron said: “Hydrogen can help us meet the UK’s ever-pressing need for net zero carbon emissions, safely, at low cost, with minimal disruption, and while creating thousands of sustainable jobs across the country.  

“It has a particularly valuable role to play in the hard to decarbonise sectors –transport, industry and heat. As a nation, we rely heavily on these industries, but they account for 40% of UK greenhouse gases. We must work together to create a deliverable pathway to a net zero energy infrastructure.” 

Elaborating on the hydrogen innovation being demonstrated in the Northwest, HyNet’s Project Director David Parkin said: “For industry to play its part in the UK’s drive to Net Zero, we must tackle our carbon emissions from gas.  

“These demonstrations are proving to industry that the switch to hydrogen is not only possible but just around the corner.“HyNet will bring employment and economic growth to the Northwest region, kick-starting a low carbon hydrogen economy.   

“We are focused on reducing emissions and protecting the North West’s existing 340,000 manufacturing jobs and creating over 6,000 new, permanent jobs, setting the region on course to be the world leader in clean energy innovation.  

Matt Buckley, UK managing director of Pilkington UK Ltd, part of the NSG Group, said: “We are proud to sit at the forefront of hydrogen innovation in the glass industry.  Our team’s collaborations with HyNet and HyDeploy are enabling huge steps forward to be taken, as we work towards the decarbonisation of our activities.  

“Both trials have successfully demonstrated that it is possible to use hydrogen to safely and effectively fire a float glass plant. We now look forward to HyNet being fully up and running from 2025 to turn these demonstrations into reality.”