Glass Futures and its members continue leading innovation in decarbonisation

Glass Futures, a disruptive research technology organisation, will continue to find solutions for decarbonising energy intensive industries thanks to £7m funding and £11m for its members from the UK government’s Department for Energy, Security and Net Zero.

The not-for-profit, which opened its new £54m Global Centre of Excellence in St Helens in June, will be involved in three projects to pave the way for the glass and ceramic industries to drastically cut carbon emissions.

Through investigations into 100 per cent hydrogen, low-cost biofuels and electrical boosting, Glass Futures will partner with its members across the ceramic and glass sectors to drive a smoother, faster transition from fossil fuels.

(1) Rapid and Dynamic Electric Boosting of Glass Furnaces (R&D-Electric):
Electric boosting has been identified by British Glass as having the potential to reduce UK CO2 by 56% annually. Innovation could offer up to 200 MWH load balancing capacity to the UK’s electrical grid providing increased energy resilience. This project will model and develop an optimised approach to deploying electric melting by exploring super boosted electric furnaces to hopefully pave the way for 40-50 per cent boost capability for conventional glass furnaces in the future. Thereby, providing a smoother, quicker transition to super-boost hybrid furnaces by 2040.

Glass Futures will install an electric-boost system onto its 30-tonne a day pilot plant in its Centre of Excellence to assess melting efficiency and the impact of convection currents, product quality and seed count (the number of micro-bubbles) within glass. Guardian Glass, a founding of Glass Futures, will run a series of models to understand the most beneficial positioning of electrodes for up to 60 per cent electric-boost. Encirc, another founding member of GLF, is working with us to develop automated techniques and control tools, which are capable of rapidly switching between combustion and electric.

The project will also involve network operators E.ON and National Grid to assess the timescales and costs of upgrading UK grid networks to enable glass plants to transition to electric-hybrid furnaces.

(2) Demonstrating the viability of low-cost biofuels for glass and ceramics:

Building on research carried out by Glass Futures for the UK government (due to be published shortly) that reveals lower cost, renewable, biofuels have the potential to switch UK glass and ceramic sites from natural gas, this project will explore a variety of economically and technology attractive biofuels for a range of industrial glass and ceramic furnace sites. Some of the world’s largest glass manufacturers and Glass Futures members O-I, Ardagh and Encirc will trial biofuels on their glass plants. Pilkington UK, part of the NSG Group will also trial biofuels on their float glass plant and DSF refractory manufacturer on their ceramics site with furnace.
The availability, economics and sustainability of low-cost biofuels will be explored as well as compatibility with Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) technologies.

This project will demonstrate fuels that can provide a quick, economical route to decarbonising existing furnaces/kilns as well as a longer-term route to carbon negative industrial manufacturing using CCUS.

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