Glass packaging industry goes electric, adding to growing demand for renewable power
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Glass packaging industry goes electric, adding to growing demand for renewable power

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-08-17      Origin: Site

    Unlike the steel and cement industry, the glass sector has a clear path towards decarbonising its processes: electrification. Yet renewable electricity is scarcer than the industry would like, raising concerns about its ability to meet EU climate goals.

     The glass packaging industry has a high recycling rate, upwards of 70%. It now wants to switch its gas furnaces to electricity in order to meet the EU’s 2030 decarbonisation targets, powering them with a mix of 80% electricity and 20% gas in the “Furnace for the Future” pilot.

Recycling, while less energy intensive than the production of glass packaging, is energy intensive nonetheless. The energy used has been fossil fuel based thus far, making recycling, and glass packaging production in general, less green than it is often assumed.

    As a consequence, the annual emissions of the glass container industry are estimated to be around 8-9 million tonnes of CO2 per year, according to a senior spokesperson at FEVE, the European glass container industry body.

This represents more than 1% of EU-27 industrial emissions, a significant share.

Faced with pressure to decarbonise, the glass packaging industry has united to electrify its processes with the “Furnace for the Future” (F4F) joint undertaking. The aim is to build a proof-of-concept furnace in Germany where a multinational glass manufacturer, the Ardagh Group, is in charge of building the new plant.

    Ardagh Group declined to comment on the state of construction.

The project aims to build a furnace by 2023 that utilises electricity to melt glass of all sizes and colours at workable prices, while being twice as energy efficient as traditional fossil fuel furnaces.

 “We want to demonstrate that melting with 80% electricity is feasible. That’s the target,” said Fabrice Rivet, the technical director of FEVE.

For technical reasons, the first generation of electrical furnaces is forced to get 20% of its energy from gas. “For the second generation, we will certainly see how to replace the 20% natural gas still necessary to bring some heat above the melt,” said Rivet.

    To do this, he said the industry is looking at options such as radiative electrical heat, hydrogen, or biogas for the second generation of electrical furnace, which is set to begin development in 2027.

   If the initial pilot goes according to plan, the model could then be rapidly replicated across the container glass industry, allowing manufacturers to cut their emissions by 50% across all factories. 

    However, high research and electricity costs are holding back the industry, which has called for public support. 

    The F4F project hopes to tap into the EU’s Innnovation Fund, where it is currently at the second stage of the selection process to obtain a share of an estimated €20 billion worth of grants.

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