Pilkington is claiming a world’s first after successfully manufacturing architectural glass using hydrogen power at its St Helen’s site in a trial it says could lead to a transition to hydrogen power for all production.

The trial proves that glass can be made with vastly reduced carbon emissions using hydrogen instead of fossil fuel gas without impacting product quality, according to UK MD Matt Buckley.

 “Thanks to NSG’s advanced fuel combustion expertise, and the preparation and efforts of the team, we managed to achieve a seamless transition between the two different fuels, he said.

“Decarbonisation of the construction supply chain is a vital part of the UK’s ambition to achieve net-zero by 2050, and the ability to produce float glass in this way is an important step in this journey.

He added that the breakthrough was made at the same site that float glass was originally developed nearly 70 years ago.

“Now, 70 years later, this trial represents another major milestone for the global glass industry and it’s appropriate that it has once again been pioneered here.”

The initiative is part of the ‘HyNet Industrial Fuel Switching’ project to decarbonise industrial processes across the North West. By 2030, it is expected to cut 10 million tonnes of carbon per year – the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.

David Parkin, director of progressive energy and project director of HyNet North West added: “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.

“This trial at Pilkington UK is a significant step in demonstrating that is it possible to use hydrogen to power glass production and provides a valuable blueprint for further trials and implementation.”

The three-week trial on the float glass line used approximately 60 road tankers of hydrogen, but the longer-term plan is to create a network of hydrogen pipelines to supply key industrial sites, avoiding the need for road transport.

In February 2020, the HyNet project was awarded funding of £5.3M from BEIS through its Energy Innovation Programme.

Pictured: Steve Rotheram, metro mayor of Liverpool, visited the Pilkington site last week to see the trial for himself.