Within the Saint-Gobain Strategic Research Program on energy-saving and environmentally-friendly processes, the Group’s researchers have achieved a world first: a biomass-supplied glass-melting campaign.
Glass is composed of raw materials and cullet melted in furnaces where energy is usually supplied by gas combustion. Thanks to a new technology, Saint-Gobain Glass’s Renedo plant (Spain) has produced a marketable glass through a process where gas combustion is partially replaced by that of timber residue collected from surrounding commercial forests. These tests were performed in a specially-designed furnace designed by the R&D teams from the Avilès R&D Center and Saint-Gobain Recherche (Paris).
“This highly compact furnace has been developed on the Renedo site thanks to the skills and know-how of the Avilès R&D Center engineers”, explains Maria Marcos Fernandez, head of the center. “The cooperation between production and R&D has been first class, and we were especially motivated to see our Renedo plant become the first to carry out these tests and start melting glass using biomass” adds Miguel Angel Diez Gonzalez, plant manager. Thanks to this technology, Saint-Gobain has proven that biomass can supply a significant portion of the energy needed for melting glass. During the preliminary tests, the teams even succeeded in melting glass with over 65% of energy supplied by biomass.
“A lot still remains to be done to reach an industrial scale, we have already been able to demonstrate that biomass is compatible with quality glass-melting, and that making such a use more widespread in the future would not only limit the carbon footprint but also improve a furnace’s energy balance. This would complement a series of measures recently implemented in our plants, which have already led to a 6% drop in energy consumption over the last three years” concludes Manuel Pimentel, Saint-Gobain Glass Industrial Director for the Iberian Peninsula.