The world’s first large-scale hybrid furnace
The industry’s collective ‘Furnace of the Future’ pilot project is a breakthrough technology that will allow the glass industry to switch to green energy such as electricity. It will be the world’s first large-scale hybrid oxy-fuel furnace to run on 80 per cent renewable electricity, and will:
• be capable of processing over 300 tonnes of glass per day;
• replace fossil fuel energy sources via a hybrid furnace using up to 80 per cent green electricity;
• be able to melt all kinds of glass together with recycled glass.
This pioneering hybrid technology will become a major milestone towards climate-neutral glass packaging. Already today, by using more recycled glass, we can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions, by 5 per cent for each 10 per cent more recycled glass used. This will replace current fossil-fuel energy sources and cut CO2 emissions by 50 per cent.
For the very first time, 20 industry companies have joined forces to create, fund and test a pilot furnace project under real-life conditions to see if it can fully meet both technical and market criteria. Ardagh Group – the world’s second-leading glass packaging manufacturer – has volunteered to build the furnace in Germany. This joint approach intends to seek the support of the European Commission’s EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) Finance for Innovation Fund Programme in 2020.
The furnace will be built by 2022, with first results in 2023.
The ‘Furnace of the Future’ is a fundamental milestone in the industry’s decarbonisation journey towards climate-neutral glass packaging. For the very first time, the industry has adopted a collaborative approach in which glass container producers have mobilised resources to work on and fund a pilot project to prove the concept.
“We are extremely proud to announce this joint-industry project,” comments Michel Giannuzzi, President of FEVE. “The hybrid technology is a step-change in the way we produce and will enable us to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of glass packaging production. The move marks an important milestone for the glass sector in implementing our decarbonisation strategy.”
The industry already works with electric furnaces in several of its 150 glass manufacturing plants across Europe, but they are small scale and exclusively used to produce flint (colourless) glass with virgin raw materials, therefore using very little or no recycled glass content. With this new technology, the industry will be able to produce more than 300 tonnes per day of any glass colour, using high levels of recycled glass.
Ardagh’s role in the project
Ardagh Group – the second largest glass packaging manufacturer in the world – has volunteered to build the furnace in Germany. It will be built in 2022, with an assessment of first results planned for 2023.
“With this new technology we are embarking on the journey to climate-neutral glass packaging, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of manufacturing,” states Martin Petersson, CEO of Ardagh Group, Glass Europe. “We aim to demonstrate the viability of electric melting on a commercial scale, which would revolutionise the consumer glass packaging market.”
Bringing the ‘Furnace of the Future’ to life is an extremely ambitious project requiring significant financial and human resources and a wide range of expertise. For this reason, the industry has committed to work together. By adopting a sectoral approach, it also intends to gain the support of the European Commission through the ETS Finance for Innovation Fund Programme. Despite its key importance, this project is not the only one the industry is working on. Other pathways towards clean production technologies and climate-neutral glass packaging are already implemented and others are also being explored.
The industry’s vision
With climate change set to be one of our planet’s greatest challenges, we all have a role to play in cutting CO2 emissions. The glass industry’s vision is to make glass production climate neutral. This is taking place there through continuous decarbonisation of production process, and by maximising the use of low-carbon emission energy sources.
The glass packaging industry is a leader in the implementation of the Circular Economy in Europe, and has been collecting glass packaging for over 40 years, achieving a collection for recycling rate of 76 per cent. At the same time, the industry continues to invest in recycling, research and innovation to improve existing technologies and explore other solutions such as biomass and hydrogen. Thanks to combined technologies, it has decoupled production from CO2 emissions.
Glass is, today, already 30 per cent lighter, 70 per cent less energy-intensive and emits 50 per cent less CO2 than 50 years ago, while 9 million tonnes of CO2 are saved per year through endlessly recycling of glass bottles and jars into new production.
At the same time, as a production industry, it is committed to enabling the transition to a resource efficient and low-carbon economy, in line with the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This is a business and political imperative, providing the best answer to market demand, as well as responding to recent recommendations on the European Industrial Strategy and the Circular Economy Action Plan. That’s why the glass industry is continually investing in switching to more environmentally-friendly sources of energy – from wood, to coal, to natural gas, and now to a hybrid furnace.