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Glassmaking innovators Pilkington newest member to join Northwest Hydrogen Alliance

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Pilkington, one of the leading glass suppliers in the UK, is the latest company to join the Northwest Hydrogen Alliance (NWHA).

Last year Pilkington completed a world first trial at its Greengate site in St Helens, Merseyside, where hydrogen was successfully used to produce float (sheet) glass as part of the ‘HyNet Industrial Fuel Switching’ project.

Pilkington have a long history of innovation in glassmaking, having invented the Float Process, by which most of the world’s high-quality glass is made. The recent trial demonstrated the role hydrogen can play in creating lower-carbon glass. Replacing natural gas with hydrogen, in part or eventually fully, could see the industry decarbonised, reducing emissions and building sustainability into the glass-making process.

Glass can play a key role in the UK’s sustainable future, with the material widely recyclable and circular economies already in place to minimise waste. But, as with other energy intensive high temperature manufacturing processes, innovation is needed to decarbonise the industry.

Neil Syder, managing director at Pilkington Glass said: “While glass is a sustainable, infinitely recyclable material, it requires intense heat to produce. Reducing CO2 emissions and maintaining the security of energy supply for our furnaces will remain fundamental to our continued business.

“Hydrogen offers a real solution to decarbonising the glass manufacturing process and the recent trials at our Greengate Works site in St Helens proved that it can be successfully used to fire up our furnaces. This world first shows how the Northwest is at the forefront of innovation in industrial decarbonisation. We’re delighted to be joining the Northwest Hydrogen Alliance and working alongside other partners to help the region transition to net zero.”

Pilkington follow hot on the heels of Glass Futures who joined the NWHA last year and are developing a glassmaking Pilot Plant facility in St Helens to provide a Global Centre of Excellence for sustainable manufacture of glass.

Professor Joe Howe, chair of the NWHA and executive director, Energy Research Institute at the University of Chester, said: “It’s widely recognised that hydrogen will be central to reaching net zero and nowhere is this truer than in the Northwest. As recent reports have shown, hydrogen is essential to decarbonising the Northwest industrial cluster by 2040 and can provide a viable alternative to natural gas in manufacturing, particularly for sectors such as glass that require high temperatures.

“Pilkington are leading innovators in glass manufacturing and their work is helping to shine a spotlight on the role that hydrogen can play in helping our vital industries reach zero emissions. We welcome them to the Alliance and look forward to working with them to further develop a hydrogen economy in the region which can set the blueprint for the UK and beyond.”

The NWHA represents over 30 of the UK’s most influential organisations driving forward the development of a hydrogen economy. With a strong commitment to decarbonising industry and hitting net zero targets, the Alliance advances the case for delivery of a full-system hydrogen economy in the Northwest of England.

The Northwest recently published a roadmap to net zero for the region with hydrogen playing a central role in the region’s industrial decarbonisation strategy.