An industry consortium has been formed to increase the amount of hydrogen in energy- intensive manufacturing processes.

The consortium was formed by Dutch glass company CelSian alongside engineering group DNV GL and consists of 30 project partners.

While the consortium includes companies from other industries, such as Tata Steel, Shell and GRT Gas, the majority (40%) consists of glass manufacturers.

These include the three largest container glass manufacturers O-I, Ardagh Glass, and Verallia, flat glass makers AGC, Saint-Gobain and Vitro Architectural Glass, specialist glass manufacturers Schott, Nippon Electric Glass and Owens Corning, pharmaceutical manufacturer SGD Pharma, tableware specialist Arc International, as well as furnace supplier Tecoglass.

The use of hydrogen would reduce the amount of CO2 emissions in the glass manufacturing process.

Project leader Lieke de Cock, of CelSian, said: “The major challenge now is to go CO2 neutral. Electric melting might not yet be a ready-made solution for the larger furnaces in the glass industry, so we are focusing on hydrogen.”

Lab tests in the two-year programme are due to start next month at the DNV GL facilities near Groningen, Netherlands.

Different burner types will be tested and the considerations of switching from natural gas to hydrogen will be assessed.

The aim is to develop burner technology that allows the gradual transition from natural gas to hydrogen.

“We will try to find an adaptive burner concept which enables the burning of 100% hydrogen but also a mixture of natural gas and hydrogen as well as the ability to burn 100% natural gas, to give flexibility to the industry,” said Ms de Cock.

“It means the customer can run any mixture of natural gas and hydrogen safely, reliably and with low emissions.”

CelSian will contribute to this study by applying CFD modelling of the combustion space and heat transfer of the H2-CH4 flames. Also, a CO laser sensor will be installed to adjust and control the burners with H2/CH4 mixtures.

Once testing has been complete the aim is to try them out in an industrial context, probably in a year’s time.

Ms de Cock said hydrogen offered a lot of potential to the glass industry.

“If your furnace is located close to where hydrogen is piped into land then hydrogen conversion might be best for you.

"But if you are located close to a power source then electric melting might be more interesting to you, or a hybrid conversion. It depends on your location on what solution is best for you but it is important to explore all solutions such as hydrogen as well as electric melting.”

Ms de Cock added: “The aim, in two years’ time, is to have all the knowledge that enables a successful roll out of hydrogen as a sustainable fuel and that we have all the knowledge we need to say we can use hydrogen with a certain type of burner that is sustainable and have a good rollout throughout the industry.”