Pilkington signs hydrogen supply agreement

Liverpool city region glassmaker Pilkington signs deal to use hydrogen to power its manufacturing process as part of the £47bn HyNet project. Tony McDonough reports

Pilkington UK factory in St Helens is to start powering its furnaces with hydrogen


Pilkington has become the second North West glassmaker to sign up to the £47bn HyNet hydrogen project.

In 2021, Pilkington partnered with HyNet to conduct two “world-first” trials by running a glass furnace in St Helens using hydrogen. This forms part of a wider push by the company to use lower carbon fuels.

This new ‘heads of terms’ agreement sets up Vertex, which is leading the HyNet consortium, to supply Pilkington with hydrogen. In December Cheshire firm Encirc, which makes 3bn glass bottles and containers a year, signed a similar deal with Vertex.

HyNet will produce what is called ‘blue hydrogen’ at a facility being built at the Stanlow oil refinery at Ellesmere Port. This is hydrogen produced by burning natural gas.

But instead of the carbon being released into the air and fuelling climate change it will be captured and stored in depleted gas fields under Liverpool Bay.

This method is seen by some experts as controversial. Carbon capture and storage has yet to be delivered on this scale. However, HyNet remains confident it will succeed when it is fired up in late 2025.

Pilkington owner NSG Group has announced an increased level of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Pilkington UK glass produces thermally efficient Pilkington K Glass S and Pilkington Suncool. These help control internal building temperatures and save energy.


HyNet hydrogen trial
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram fires up the hydrogen trial at Pilkington


Neil Syder, managing director of Pilkington UK, said: “Firing the float glass furnace using hydrogen instead of natural gas is a key part of our strategy to reduce carbon emissions. Decarbonising the glass making process represents a significant challenge.

“It’s critical that we partner with academics and industry groups, particularly here in the North West.”

HyNet will aim to deliver an initial 1,000 megawatts of hydrogen capacity – enough to provide the fuel consumed by a city the size of Liverpool. It says it will capture 1.8m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year at full capacity.

Joe Seifert, chief executive of Vertex Hydrogen, added: “Pilkington has long been admired as an innovator in the glass industry and led a world first trial of flat glass from hydrogen in 2021 at its famous St Helens facility.

“The offtake agreement is another iconic name in the north west manufacturing region switching to Vertex’s low carbon hydrogen.”

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