Michelmersh has announced its successful bid to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) UK Government, Industrial Fuel Switching competition to conduct a feasibility study to replace natural gas with hydrogen in the brick making process. The programme is part of the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) which aims to provide funding for low-carbon technologies to decreasing the costs of decarbonisation.
The project represents a global flagship physical study to replace natural gas with hydrogen in brick manufacturing. Phase one of the project will demonstrate the viability of fuel switching and will see hydrogen used in the clay brick production process at Michelmersh’s Freshfield Lane site. The project aims to inspire radical change across the sector and present opportunities and evidence-based research to support manufacturers on their journey to heavily decarbonise the production processes.
As the organisation leading the BEIS ‘Deep Decarbonisation of Brick Manufacturing’ project, Michelmersh has gone a step further to promote and disseminate the progression and learning of the project through a dedicated brand: HyBrick.
Green electrolytic hydrogen will be used for this innovative study, helping to demonstrate how this technology can transform the brick manufacturing industry. All the consortium partners are thrilled to facilitate and promote the production of the world’s first 100 per cent hydrogen-fired clay bricks, enabling a movement towards hydrogen and providing a pathway to the net-zero future that our country is aspiring towards.
This first HyBrick study will explore the testing of specific infrastructure components to prove hydrogen firing capability and determine any impact on overall quality, brick integrity or aesthetics. Data will be collected and analysed to ascertain any effect to process temperatures or stability. The bricks will then be compared against control bricks (produced using 100 per cent natural gas) to ensure they meet all technical, aesthetic and characteristic requirements, with independent laboratory testing to determine their durability and structural performance. Of paramount importance are dedicated health and safety risk analyses, assessments and training, as well as air quality performance testing.
Associated work looking at hydrogen production solutions aims to provide opportunities for Michelmersh with resilient, clean on-site hydrogen, which could help the Michelmersh Group pave the way to a more sustainable future for the broader ceramics industry.
Sarah Le Gresley, Michelmersh’s Innovation Director, Sustainability Group Chair and Application Lead is excited to begin the world’s first trials. She is incredibly passionate about demonstrating that, as well as clay brick having zero operational carbon, this also presents the opportunity to significantly reduce clay brick’s embodied carbon by over 60 per cent. Le Gresley recently coined the expression ‘Shaping Genuine Sustainability’ for the Group to highlight its focus on investing in genuine carbon reduction projects over funding carbon offsets.
Le Gresley is working with Michael Brophy, Group Production Director, who is also eager to demonstrate the Group’s progressive approach to sustainability. Brophy is enthusiastic to push the boundaries and explore the engineering, production capabilities and requirements that will take sustainable UK manufacturing to the next level. With Michelmersh focused on leading the sector by testing and exploring efficient new technologies and production methods, including but not limited to fuel switching, it will endeavour to showcase how natural, locally-made construction products can provide significant reductions to the whole life carbon of durable materials available to specifiers.
Frank Hanna, Joint CEO of Michelmersh, explains, “The Group is proud to stand at the forefront of such evolution for our industry. While we have seen energy costs rise due to environmental and political factors, this incredible application of technology and innovation allows the Group to reduce its costs considerably, improve its resilience and welcome new products that take sustainability to a whole new level. While we look forward to the challenges ahead of us, we are optimistic about the change we can inspire within the manufacturing sector. With decades of experience producing high-quality products and with the aid of our industry-leading partners, the Group is well suited to lead the UK with this flagship global first.
The Group has set ambitious 2030 Sustainability KPIs which include 100 per cent of our electricity provided by green suppliers and renewable sources from October 2022, with other onsite renewable energy sources already on the ground at Michelmersh sites. The team understands the impact this project could have if successful, however, it also recognises there is a long journey ahead before hydrogen is fully tested throughout the multiple different production processes or is financially viable to expand to all our sites.”
For more information, please call 0844 931 0022, email or visit the Michelmersh website.