Glass Futures Industrial Fuel Switching Phase 3 programme ignites first furnace

Kris Milkowski from TERC wears a hard hat and works at a laptop inside a building with lots of metal pipework

Research trials into low carbon alternative fuels for glass furnaces are currently ongoing as part of Glass Futures’ Government funded Industrial Fuel Switching Phase 3 programme. The Translational Energy Research Centre research team, including technicians and research associates, have been working with Glass Futures to carry out vital experimental design and process work.

Glass Futures, a not-for-profit research and technology organisation was awarded a £7.1m contract in 2020 by The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Energy Innovation Programme to research and deliver new energy sources to the glass industry.

This work involves test firing hydrogen and bio-fuels in a scale model glass furnace at temperatures in excess of 1500 °C, simulating real world firing conditions for alternative fuels. The project is also evaluating the associated technical, economic, and environmental aspects of fuels.

The project will undertake a series of trials to investigate these low carbon fuel scenarios for use across the glass sector, culminating in industrial-scale biofuel trials on commercial container and float lines. This project includes an industrial biofuel trial on a full-scale commercial line as well as a lab scale hydrogen demonstration. The project encompasses a wide range of industrial and academic partners and the final report for this work is due to be published by BEIS in summer 2022.

The strategy announces an extra £500 million towards innovation projects, bringing the total funding for net-zero research and innovation to at least £1.5 billion to support technologies that decarbonise glass and other industries.

In last January as part of this revolutionary project, glass container manufacturer, Encirc (a Vidrala company), and Glass Futures demonstrated that new bottles can be made from 100% recycled glass, using only the energy from burning ultra-low-carbon bio-fuels, achieving a 90% reduction in carbon footprint.

Energy & Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “These fuel switching trials, backed by over £7 million in government funding, demonstrate how we are supporting industry to decarbonise and move away from relying on fossil fuels. This is vital to reducing emissions and driving forward the UK’s green industrial revolution.”

Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian from the University of Sheffield said: “Working to understand how best to manufacture glass through a clean and sustainable process is a vital part of the drive to reach net-zero, for both industries and consumers.

“We are excited to be able to share our expertise in hydrogen, biofuels and modelling and simulation to facilitate this innovative research, which is allowing for further significant steps towards the decarbonisation of the glass sector.”

Dr Palma González García, Industrial Fuel Switching Innovation and Programme Manager commented: “It was exhilarating igniting the furnace for the first time and this marks an important first step in a series of trials to assess the potential of low-carbon fuel technologies to decarbonise the glass industry in accordance with the Government’s net-zero target by 2050.

“As many furnaces due to be installed in the coming years will be expected to run for up to 20
years, new low carbon fuel technologies need to be proven technically and economically as soon as possible if the global glass sector is to fully decarbonise by 2050.”

mohamed pourkashanian stands next to a large mcfc on a pallet