“A Royal Society conference I attended a few years ago introduced me to a senior Government Minister who understood the needs of the glass and other foundation industries. Without this connection, Glass Futures may never have got off the ground.”
The use of fossil fuels in glass furnaces releases significant quantities of greenhouse gases. Glass Futures, a Research Technology Organisation, was set up to bring industry and academia together to identify ways of decarbonising the production of glass bottles, float glass for windows and glass-fibre. In 2020, Richard and his team received Government funding to start a programme investigating the potential of alternative low carbon fuels in glass furnaces.
The programme tested a variety of low carbon fuels, including hydrogen, liquid biofuels and green electricity hybrids, for large scale glass production on an industrial test bed. The trials showed that using liquid biofuel produced from waste materials, such as used cooking oils, resulted in a carbon footprint reduction of 90% for bottle manufacture and approximately 80% reduction for float glass production. These achievements attracted interest from leading glass manufacturers and their major brand customers across the globe.
Richard and his team now partner with existing glass manufacturers and their supply chains to understand their manufacturing process and how they could utilise alternative sustainable energy sources. A new glassmaking pilot facility, the Global Centre of Excellence, is currently under construction in St Helens and is due for completion in early 2023. This facility will allow industry and academia to continue to test new technologies, and enable further research into decarbonising not only glass, but other industries such as ceramics and steel.