A webinar focused on the Furnace of the Future sustainability project as well as the decarbonisation steps the glass industry needs to take.

FEVE’s Future Made Clear webinar this morning included Ardagh Glass CEO Martin Petersson and FEVE technical expert Fabrice Rivet as well as host, Feve Secretary General, Adeline Farrelly.

Mr Petersson described the Furnace for the Future project as a true industry collaboration, with Ardagh working alongside with 19 other glass manufacturers which represents 90% of total glass container production in Europe.

“Together our collective technical expertise and skills will be used to bring this sector level transition to the low carbon economy and we will share the know how to produce climate neutral packaging.

“Our priority is to work on the melting technologies we currently use. We are looking to invert the fuel balance from today’s 80% gas and 20% electricity, to 20% gas and 80% renewable electricity with CO2 savings of 50% plus.

"We believe we can use this technology to produce all glass colours with high levels of recyclable content.”

He added it will be the first time that all the elements of electric melting will be put together on this scale of industrial production

If an application for funding is successful the furnace will be built in 2022 and first glass produced in 2023.

“We recognised from the start of this project that this is key to setting us on the path to climate neutral glass packaging and to ensure the long term sustainability of glass packaging.

"By demonstrating the viability of electric melting on a commercial scale we will secure a sustainable future for glass as a sustainable material. This is vital for our industry, our company and our customers’ sustainability agendas.”

The furnace will be built at Ardagh’s Obernkirchen, Germany plant which already has the required electricity grid connection needed for the project.

Fabrice Rivet’ FEVE’s Technical Director then outlined some of the challenges facing the project. The furnace will be deemed a hybrid furnace because, while most of it will be supplied by renewable electricity, a small amount of natural gas will be required.

While electric furnaces already exist, they are mostly used on a small scale of about 100 tonnes per day capacity and used by niche sectors such as perfumery.

“The main challenge for the Furnace for the Future is that we want to go big, we want to get to 350 tonnes per day capacity.”

Due to its larger size, the new furnace will be a horizontal rather than a vertical furnace and will therefore require different technology.

Another requirement is to produce all colours of glass, particularly amber glass. Amber, or brown glass, is effective at protecting the contents of the bottle or jar from the sun’s UV radiation.

However it is a challenge to make brown glass using electricity due to the risk of foaming.

“So we have to heat where we need to have heat and which is why we will still have 20% natural gas to avoid this foaming.”

The final challenge was to ensure that the correct know how was disseminated across the industry once the new furnace is built.

“Such a furnace has never been built so far, this is the first of its kind, so we need to develop the right know how on how to operate this furnace. We need to operate it to get a glass which meets customer requirements.

"This know how is important, it is a reason for this sectoral approach in order for us to disseminate this know how across our industry.”

Out of more than 300 applications for funding from the EU, the Furnace for the Future project was one of only 70 which had made it through to the final stage of application.

Just 10 of these will be awarded funding and a final decision on successful applications is due at the beginning of November.