Mersey glassmaker in switch to ‘green hydrogen’

In a groundbreaking move global glassmaker Pilkington is to use zero emission ‘green hydrogen’ to fire its Liverpool city region glassmaking furnace. Tony McDonough reports

Pilkington has been making glass in St Helens for almost 200 years. Picture by AWOL Media


Glassmaker Pilkington is to install technology at its factory in St Helens that will fire its furnace using emissions-free ‘green hydrogen’.

Pilkington UK, part of the Japanese NSG Group, has been making glass in the Merseyside town for almost 200 years. The business is committed to an overall 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

It has already signed up to the HyNet hydrogen project which will see hydrogen produced at Ellesmere Port close to the Mersey and piped to factories across the North West. Pilkington has already conducted successful hydrogen trials.

However, that hydrogen is so-called ‘blue hydrogen’ and is produced by burning natural gas, a fossil fuel. The emissions are captured and stored under the sea bed in Liverpool Bay.

However, that method is seen by many experts as controversial. They remain unconvinced carbon capture and storage can work on the scale proposed.

Green hydrogen is seen as the better option. Rather than burning fossil fuels, it instead sees electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar run through a device called an electrolyser. This separates the hydrogen molecules from water.

This hydrogen can then be used to fire Pilkington’s glassmaking furnace. It is teaming up with Grenian Hydrogen who will install an electrolyser at Pilkington’s Greengate plant and have it up and running by 2027.

Grenian is a joint venture between Progressive Energy – which is leading the HyNet project, Statkraft, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, and investment manager Foresight.

Pilkington has told LBN the renewable energy used in the electrolysed will either wind or solar sourced from renewable energy generators.

Neil Syder, managing director at Pilkington UK, said: “Our plans to produce green hydrogen on site will provide a blueprint for the decarbonisation of flat glass manufacturing all over the world.

“Using zero carbon hydrogen to fuel our production will enable us to permanently remove 15,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from our production each year, representing a major step forward in meeting our certified targets for achieving carbon neutrality.”


Glassmaker Pilkington operates the Greengage plant in St Helens


In February Pilkington announced it was shutting down its Watson Street furnace in St Helens, which has been used since 1826, and was switching operations to the Greengate site in the town. 

This project is being supported by a £3.7m grant via the government’s Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IEFT), which helps cover the costs of industrial energy efficiency and decarbonisation projects in the UK.

Grenian chief executive Adam Baddeley said the project team was set to engage with the St Helens community in a public consultation. 

READ MORE: Stanlow could be ‘world’s first decarbonised refinery’

He explained: “We are really looking forward to meeting those who live and work in St Helens at our community event, as part of our consultation, on Tuesday, June 18.

“We will be at the World of Glass between 2pm and 7pm to explain more about the project, and answer questions. The project marks an exciting point in Liverpool city region’s journey to create sustainable energy solutions – with St Helens leading the way.”

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