O-I Villotta in Italy is now one of the glass container manufacturer’s most energy-efficient plants. George Lewis spoke to Alessandro Lanzellotto* and Ludovic Valette** about the investments at the production facility.

**This is an abridged version of an article that will appear in the July/August issue of Glass International.**

The world’s largest container glass manufacturer O-I recently completed a series of investments at its plant in Villotta, Italy, transforming it into one of its most energy-efficient glass packaging plants.

O-I Villotta produces container glass used for wine in the north east area of Italy, the predominant area where prosecco is produced.

It also provides bottles for olive oil for the Italian market along with some spirits for international - geographies.

Many investments were made, but none more so than to upgrade both of Villotta’s furnaces to use gas-oxy combustion technology, giving O-I the ideal scenario to convert the entire site in a short amount of time in order to make the biggest sustainable impact.

Ludovic Valette, Vice-President of Global Technology and Engineering at O-I (pictured above) said even in 2012 there was already a strong emphasis on sustainability and environmental matters.

Alessandro Lanzellotto, who was the Villotta Plant Manager at the time of the investments, said the reasons for rebuilding with an oxy-fuel furnace include that it was the best solution to move to newer, more energy efficient technology.

He said: “We have always has been an energy efficient plant, but we reached the best solution (with oxy-fuel) in terms of energy consumption.”

Mr Valette added: “Oxy fuel is a very important technology for O-I to advance our sustainability roadmap and achieve our sustainability objectives.”

The investments also included combining the cullet feeder to the furnace to increase the use of recycled glass or cullet.

Villotta’s cullet pre-heating system creates even more energy savings because it captures exhaust heat from the furnaces and reuses it to raise the temperature of incoming cullet. Pre-heated cullet is said to require less energy from the furnace down the line.

Mr Lanzellotto feels that it is imperative that O-I continually look at ways to be more sustainable, and he believes that push is coming from all sides, including O-I’s customers and investors.

“For sure sustainability is becoming important for our customers. We feel it is important to show how much we care for sustainability”, he said.

O-I Villotta also invested in an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), which is an electric generator that transforms waste heat into electricity for use on systems throughout the facility.

Mr Lanzellotto explained that hot water from the compressor room is recovered to heat parts of the plant floor such as the cold end.

The heating system has reportedly provided 845 MWh of thermal energy since January 2017 and has saved O-I money in not having to provide additional heat for its workers.

Villotta also captures waste heat from some of the annealing lehrs and reuses the heat later in the cold end. LED lighting has also been installed across the plant to become even more energy-efficient.

Future thinking

O-I said that with all the investments that have been made at Villotta, the upgrades have translated to a melter energy reduction of more than 40% annually, almost 45% reduction of melter CO2 emissions, and an increase of production by more than 30%.

The Villotta plant is still running well with all these new investments according to Mr Lanzellotto and last year, Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development and the National Research Council of Pisa recognised O-I Villotta as possessing the requirements of an experimental research and development project, meaning the investments have been worthwhile.

He said that Villotta will now be working on ‘improving what we have already done’, with no more major investments being thought about at the moment.

Mr Valette added that due to the success of Villotta, it meant that O-I has the opportunity to replicate the technology used there to improve its furnaces at other locations where appropriate.

He said O-I has proven it has a history of innovation and invention and it is ‘continuing the tradition initiated by Michael Owens in the 1900s’ with the technology implemented at Villotta.

*Manufacturing Excellence Leader – Hungary & Italy

** Vice-President, Global Technology and Engineering