O-I has completed a €50 million investment at its Vayres, France container glassmaking site. The investment was focused on decarbonisation and included modernised technology to meet its sustainability aims. Greg Morris spoke to Plant Director, Thibaut Guichard* who discusses the engineering project.

***Abridged version from Glass International's July/August issue. Full article available via link below.***

O-I recently celebrated the opening if its modernised furnace at its Vayres, France glass manufacturing facility recently.

The €50 million investment included the latest in glassmaking technology in order for O-I, as well its customers, to help meet their sustainability goals.

Investment in new gas-oxygen combustion technology GOAT (Gas Oxy Advanced Technology), combined with a cullet pre-heater means the site will reduce its CO2 emissions by up to 20% and NOx emissions by up to 60%.

Plant director Thibaut Guichard states: “We want to be the most innovative and sustainable supplier of glass packaging.”

O-I’s Vayres facility is located in the heart of the famous Bordeaux wine and Cognac beverage making region in France and employs 280 people. It is a strategic cog in the region’s wine industry and manufactures about 400 million bottles a year. Its products range in size from 20cl bottles mainly for cognacs to 1.5 litre wine bottles.

Approximately 85% of its production is wine bottles with the remaining 15% for its customers in the spirits sector. Its customers are all within a 100km radius of the facility – such close proximity helps meet the sustainability aims of its customers.

Its previous furnace was 19 years old so the decision was made to invest in a modernised oven.

Heat up of the new furnace started on March 16 with the first bottles arriving on March 28. A celebratory event took place on June 17 with invited customers, local dignitaries as well as staff all taking part in the inauguration meeting.

Special guests of honour were O-I Vayres site nurse of 17 years, Laurence Galin, and long-term customer Jean-Philippe Limito, Merchandise Director at Maison Johanès Boubée wine logistics company.

Both were given the honour of lighting the new furnace.

The O-I Team.

Planning of the investment project had begun two years previously, in June 2021, so for Mr Guichard and his team, it was a proud day to enjoy.

“Our customers ask a lot regarding our sustainability strategy and how they can present lower CO2 emissions to their own customers. The location of the plant and its proximity to customers, combined with this new technology will hopefully help answer this question.”

Mr Guichard was keen to praise Project Manager for the European engineering team, Alexis Prodanu for his work in co-ordinating all the elements of the project together.

Centrepiece of the modernised plant is new furnace number two and its associated decarbonisation technology. The gas oxygen technology increases combustion efficiency during glass melting, and is based on the injection of gaseous oxygen into the furnace.

This process will allow O-I Glass to increase the productivity of the new 130m2 furnace, while reducing its consumption, improving the quality of the glass and the heat transfer.

The oxygen supply required the installation of an oxygen production unit.

The furnace replaced a previous regenerative oven so required new infrastructure in the area surrounding it.

At the rear and above the furnace is a cullet pre-heater and batch chargers, while new associated equipment had to be installed in the immediate area around the furnace such as an oxygen production unit for oxygen supply to the oven, raw material silos, a platform on the left of the furnace and a conveyor to transfer the cullet to the rear of the furnace.

The site specialises in bottles for the Bordeaux region.

A platform was built above the furnace to accommodate the five oxygen tanks and cullet pre-heater silos.

This redesigned layout required a new steel structure surrounding the furnace and a platform to be put in place seven metres above the furnace to support the equipment.

Mr Guichard has worked for O-I for nearly 15 years and at the Vayres plant for four years. While he has been involved in furnace rebuilds before, the scale of the project was an engineering feat.

“The most critical part of this construction building was to construct this building on top and back of the furnace for the cullet preheater and new silos. We also put the gallery on one or two metres on each side of the building, so it was impressive work done by the people who made that.

“In an existing plant when you put a new building on top and around the furnace is just amazing, especially when you have another furnace still operating.”

The investment also means the glassmaker can be more flexible in terms of customer requirements.

***Full article can be viewed via the July/August issue - see link here.***