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Glass manufacturing is one of the most energy-intensive industries due to its high heat requirement – especially for the melting process. More than 70 per cent of this energy is currently supplied by fossil fuels such as natural gas, and process-related CO2 emissions are also released while melting the raw materials. Up to 80 per cent of the overall emissions are energy related. By using green hydrogen – i.e. hydrogen produced from renewable energy – the proportion of emissions attributed to these processes would be avoided.
“In order to achieve ambitious climate protection goals with an industrial sector that will continue to be globally competitive in the future, there must be a radical rethink about some aspects of industrial and energy-intensive processes such as steel production. I’m glad that we have thyssenkrupp Steel, Air Liquide and the BFI here by our side as innovative partners.”
Professor Andreas Pinkwart, NRW Minister of Economic Affairs
Innovation: switching to green fuel
The use of hydrogen as fuel for industry is by no means a technical standard yet, so the effects on the highly sensitive glass manufacture melting process, product quality and harmful emissions still need to be investigated. The project is studying both the addition of increasing percentages of hydrogen to natural gas and the use of pure hydrogen as a fuel. Various experiments are being carried out in this context at a high-temperature furnace at the GWI. In addition, the researchers are investigating the potential of hydrogen for the glass manufacturing industry in NRW by means of extensive process simulations and production site analyses.
“Green gases are becoming increasingly important and safeguard the role gas plays in the context of the energy transition. Hydrogen will come to play a dominant role. Research and innovation are essential for future sustainability.”
Dr Anne Giese, Head of the Department of Industrial and Combustion Technology at GWI
Efficiency: technology that can be implemented in a timely manner
Switching the plants to electricity is an option, but appropriate technology for the required size of the systems is not yet available on the market. Adding hydrogen to natural gas to produce fuel for the furnaces is an economically plausible alternative that could be implemented in a timely manner. Investigating the technical feasibility of this approach is a basic prerequisite, however, for its subsequent integration and for plant safety in industry.
“This project for climate-neutral production is an important step towards exploring new avenues in glass manufacturing and helping to achieve the goal of a climate-neutral transformation of the economy in the long term.”
Dr Johann Overath, CEO of the Bundesverband Glasindustrie e.V. (Federal Association of the German Glass Industry)
Effect: basis for industrial application
The project is laying the foundations for using hydrogen in industrial plants soon. Even in a predominantly climate-neutral industrial sector in the future, glass will continue to be an important raw material. The potential for climate protection to be expected as a result of the widespread use of hydrogen for glass manufacture is therefore enormous. By replacing natural gas with hydrogen in the melting process, a reduction in CO2 emissions of around 3.3 million tonnes could be achieved across Germany as a whole.