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‘Furnace of the future’ a ‘major milestone’ in move towards ‘climate-neutral’ glass packaging

A “furnace of the future” has been hailed a ‘major milestone” in the move to take the drinks industry closer towards “climate-neutral” glass packaging, according to the European Container Glass Federation.

Picture source: FEVE

Using a collaborative approach, with a forecast completion date of 2022, and with Germany the chosen location, a new furnace that will run on up to 80% green electricity in place of fossil fuels is due to be fully operational by 2023.

Dubbed the ‘Furnace of the Future’, as many as 20 European container glass manufacturers have come together to build the world’s first large-scale hybrid electric furnace that will become a major milestone towards climate-neutral glass packaging.

Replacing fossil fuel energy sources via a hybrid furnace using up to 80% green electricity, the furnace will be capable of processing over 300 tonnes of glass per day and melt all kinds of glass together with recycled glass.

By replacing 80% of the natural gas with green electricity, the technology reduces the furnace emissions by 60% or 50% of the total CO2 emissions of a container glass factory.

The technology will allow the industry to use high rates of recycled glass, which is currently not possible with electric furnaces. For each additional 10% of recycled glass in the furnace, there is an additional reduction of CO2 emissions by 5% and energy consumption by 3%.

The hybrid technology flexibility can switch to other sources of energy in case of supply issues, guaranteeing no disruption to production.

The additional cost (Capital Expenditure and Operational Expenditure) of a hybrid furnace compared to a conventional furnace are estimated to be up to €40 million over the 10 year lifetime of the furnace, which is mainly due the cost of electricity compared to natural gas – it is about three times higher per MWh.

Ardagh Group – the world’s second-leading glass packaging manufacturer – has volunteered to build the furnace in Germany.

While the industry already works with electric furnaces in several of its 150 glass manufacturing plants across Europe, they are small scale and exclusively used to produce flint (colourless) glass with virgin raw materials, therefore using very little or no recycled glass content.

With this new technology, as stated above, the industry will be able to produce more than 300 tonnes per day of any glass colour, using high levels of recycled glass.

“With this new technology we are embarking on the journey to climate-neutral glass packaging, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of manufacturing”, said Martin Petersson, CEO of Ardagh Group, Glass Europe.

He added, “We aim to demonstrate the viability of electric melting on a commercial scale, which would revolutionise the consumer glass packaging market”.

Meanwhile, Michel Giannuzzi, president of the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE), commented, “We are extremely proud to announce this joint-industry project.”

Continuing he said, “The hybrid technology is a step-change in the way we produce and will enable us to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of glass packaging production.

Concluding, he said, “The move marks an important milestone for the glass sector in implementing our decarbonisation strategy”.

Bringing the ‘Furnace of the Future’ to life is an extremely ambitious project requiring significant financial and human resources and a wide range of expertise. For this reason, the industry has committed to work together, and, by adopting a sectoral approach, it also intends to gain the support of the European Commission through the ETS Finance for Innovation Fund Programme.

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