Glass industry sketches process technology route for reaching net zero

Article by Adam Duckett

THE UK’s glass industry has said it faces a challenging road ahead in meeting net zero targets, and has called on the Government to support efforts to switch to greener process technologies and fuel supplies.

There are ten companies with 17 large-scale glass manufacturing sites in the UK. The sector produced around 1.5m t of CO2 emissions in 2019, equivalent to around 0.3% of total UK emissions. A new report from the industry group British Glass outlines the measures needed to achieve zero emissions.

On the technology developments needed to reduce combustion emissions, it says all-electric furnaces can displace gas-fired ones, though the technology is currently only used at smaller scale. It says a modular approach of installing many furnaces could work for large-scale glass melting though more development is needed. It points out costs are a hurdle to reductions, with electricity prices significantly higher than gas, and that upgrading electricity grid connections is estimated to cost around £12m (US$16.7m) per site.

Hybrid furnaces that use a mixture of gas and electricity to melt glass could help manufacturers reduce emissions. While the technology has not yet been proven, the Furnace for the Future project led by a coalition of European glass manufacturers plans to build a 300 t/d hybrid furnace that can run on up to 80% renewable electricity and 20% natural gas. If proved viable, industry could install the technology and, when hydrogen is available, use it to replace natural gas. Furnaces that could use 100% hydrogen are an option with five projects in the UK and EU looking at the feasibility of hydrogen and hydrogen-blended gas-fired furnaces.

The industry must also reduce process emissions that result from the decomposition of carbonate raw materials used to manufacture glass. Calcined materials such as calcium oxide that are produced by heating limestone to remove CO2 could replace carbonates, but there are added costs of heating the limestone and capturing and storing the CO2. Plus, further work is needed to understand how calcined materials might impact melting behaviour and furnace corrosion.

Among its policy recommendations, British Glass has asked the Government to ensure that glass manufacturers not situated in planned net zero industry hubs are able to connect to hydrogen infrastructure. It has called for Government funding for large-scale demonstration projects to help cover operational and capital costs. It also called for new measures to improve glass recycling, including adding requirements into public sector contracts.

Dave Dalton, British Glass CEO, said: “This is an exciting, but challenging road ahead for UK glass manufacturers on the journey to net zero but we are committed and well placed to achieve this, provided the industry is supported with relevant policy to overcome the barriers to success. We are confident that the measures presented in the net zero strategy will outline the best route to both reducing and eventually eliminating carbon emissions from our industry, but it is essential that we receive the support required from Government to fulfil our ambitions.”

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.