O-I Villotta is a Model of Energy-Efficient Glass Manufacturing

April 15, 2021

O-I Glass is reinventing the future of glass manufacturing through innovation. Our mission is to be the most sustainable producer of the most sustainable rigid packaging. O-I recently completed a series of multi-year investments at its plant in Villotta, Italy, transforming it into a world-class example of energy-efficient glass packaging manufacturing.

O-I Villotta has embraced a variety of production and environmental technologies to improve its sustainable footprint. A primary focus was upgrading both of Villotta’s furnaces to use gas-oxy combustion technology. Gas-oxy combustion increases the energy efficiency of glass melting furnaces by using oxygen created onsite, instead of air, and reduces nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions by 70%.

The use of advanced technology did not stop with gas-oxy combustion. O-I took a systems approach to include cullet pre-heating. The use of cullet, a term for recycled glass, is already beneficial as an ingredient in glass manufacturing because it requires less energy to melt and decreases emissions. Villotta’s cullet pre-heating system creates even more energy savings because it captures exhaust heat from the furnaces and reuses it to raise the temperature of incoming cullet. Pre-heated cullet requires less energy from the furnace down the line.

Further Capturing and Reusing Heat at O-I Villotta

In addition to its furnace system innovations, Villotta is reusing heat in multiple ways. For one, O-I Villotta uses an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), an electric generator that further transforms waste heat into useful energy to power systems within the facility. The final exhaust is then treated and filtered to further reduce emissions.

Recycled water that absorbs waste heat from equipment is used to heat parts of the shop floor. The floor heating system has provided 845 MWh of thermal energy since January 2017 – the equivalent of powering 80 homes for a year.

Villotta also captures waste heat from some of the annealing lehrs – essentially long ovens used in the glass making process – and reuses the heat later in the “cold end” step of the process.

The transformation spanned nearly 8 years, beginning in 2012 when O-I identified the plant as a prime candidate for sustainability innovation. In 2020, Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development and the National Research Council of Pisa recognized O-I Villotta as possessing the requirements of an experimental research and development project.

Villotta’s maintenance supervisor Michele Furlan recognizes that the large-scale project wasn’t easy: “We made a decision to pilot all-new technologies that had not been implemented before. In a sense, it was a blind jump for everyone.”

But Furlan says the team’s enduring commitment to quality and innovation was well worth the results. The upgrades translate to 35% energy savings annually, 10% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and an increase of production by nearly 20%.

For more than 100 years, O-I has made pure, natural, earth-friendly glass packaging for communities around the world. Driven by innovation, we are determined to continue leading the transformation of our process, products, and our interconnected relationships to bring to life our vision for a sustainable future.