PPG, Owens Corning and Other Glass Manufacturers Study New Fiber Manufacturing Method

A consortium including PPG Industries (Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S.A.), Owens Corning (Toledo, Ohio, U.S.A.), Johns Manville (Denver, Co., U.

S.A.), CertainTeed Corp. (Valley Forge, Pa., U.S.A.) and other affiliated organizations is collaborating on the development of a more energy-efficient method to make glass fiber.The $3.8 million study, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE), aims to design, fabricate and validate an oxygen-fuel-fired, submerged combustion melting system, a cheaper and more efficient glass manufacturing system.

While most existing glass melting furnaces use overhead firing, that is, with heat directed downward at the glass materials to affect melting, submerged combustion means the heat source is below the glass ingredients and directed upward for much greater efficiency. The consortium's "next generation melting system" will address issues with this one of which is bubbles that can form in the glass. A pilot-scale furnace equipped with the new technology has been built near Chicago for testing that will begin in 2005.

Cheryl Richards, PPG's market development manager for thermoset products for fiberglass, is also the current president of the Glass Manufacturers Industry Council, which was instrumental in securing the DOE funding. "It takes a lot of energy to melt glass, and we've been challenged to find a different approach," says Richards. "The U.S. glass industry needs not only new products but also new processes to remain competitive." According to Richards, oxygen-fuel-fired submerged combustion has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by 23 percent, furnace capital costs by 55 percent and nitrogen oxide emission by at least 20 percent.

A second DOE grant for $125,000 is funding a study of ways to increase energy savings with current furnace technology. PPG, Eclipse Inc.'s Combustion Tec division (Rockford, Ill., U.S.A.) and the Diagnostic Instrumentation and Analysis Laboratory at Mississippi State University modified an existing PPG furnace with a Combustion Tec burner and monitored the results with the University's high-temperature data collection methods. A 10 percent gain in energy efficiency was reported along with a 20 percent drop in nitrogen oxide exhaust gases.

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