Pilkington UK, part of the NSG group, has become the world’s first flat glass manufacturer to fire its furnace on 100% biofuel.

A sustainable biofuel made from organic waste materials powered the St Helens glass manufacturer’s furnace entirely for four days, producing 165,000 m2 of the lowest carbon float glass ever made.

The fuel emits circa 80% less CO2 than traditional natural gas used in the sector.

The trial forms part of a £7.1 million project led by industry research and technology organisation Glass Futures, working under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Energy Innovation Programme.

The aim of the trail was to demonstrate that the furnace could run safely at full production on the low-carbon fuel without impacting product quality.

Neil Syder, managing director at Pilkington UK, said:

“Our world-first trial with Glass Futures proves how biofuel presents a realistic low-carbon alternative to natural gas, which will allow manufacturers to cut thousands of tonnes of CO2 from their production years ahead of alternative zero-carbon options becoming more readily available.

Last summer, we became the first glass manufacturer in the world to fire a furnace with hydrogen, which represented a major step forward towards our future as a net-zero industry. But a significant body of work remains before hydrogen and electrification become feasible alternatives to natural gas for glassmakers, making biofuels an important transitionary fuel.”

Mr Syder also said that the company was far closer to making glass with less embodied carbon accessible to all sectors.

Aston Fuller, General Manager at Glass Futures, said:

“Biofuel represents a real short-term opportunity for the UK glass sector to lead the way in sustainability among energy intensive industries, and this trial is another great example of what can be achieved when industry, academia and public partners work together to tackle the major challenges and opportunities of the future.”