04 Jan 2022

GSA highlights importance of gas use in glass manufacturing

Glass has a long and storied history. Its discovery dates all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians, whose techniques were slowly built on and refined by many cultures throughout the world over thousands of years.

Glassmaking would come to be refined considerably through the centuries as both an industry and artform, and during the Industrial Revolution enjoyed a boom due to technologies that transformed the scale and speed with which glass could be produced.

It was during this period around the early 19th century that the first glass was produced in Australia by European settlers, and from that lineage sprung Oceania Glass, now the sole carrier of the mantle for Australian architectural glassmaking. The Victoria-based company sold its first product in 1856 and is now well-known for manufacturing and marketing flat glass for several leading glass brands.

Oceania Glass Chief Executive Corné Kritzinger explains that the company works closely with architects and other building professionals to create large format flat glass for use in residential and commercial buildings, or anywhere else flat glass may be required.

Operating from a 420-metre-long float line in the Dandenong South region of Melbourne, Oceania Glass produces a staggering 165,000 tonnes of flat glass every year.

“The majority of our products are manufactured locally,” Mr Kritzinger says.

“We’re a proud Australian glass company, and the only architectural glassmaker that exists domestically. You’ll find our glass in many of the country’s most iconic buildings, including Parliament House.”

In addition to standard flat glass, Oceania Glass also makes a range of performance glass, including special Low E glass that reduces the heating, cooling, and artificial lighting needs of buildings; acoustic glass to quieten homes and workspaces; security glass to help protect from danger; and laminated glass to make buildings safer.

So, how is this glass made? To provide Oceania Glass with the energy it needs to maintain the 2000-tonne furnace at the heart of its operations, it requires gas-fired power from the nearby Gippsland Basin.

The mix of raw materials used in the production of flat glass is known as the batch, which is composed of three main components: silica sand, soda ash, and dolomite (limestone). These raw materials are rigorously checked and analysed for quality to ensure the purity of the batch prior to melting and refining.

The batch is automatically added at the filling end of a furnace that forms molten glass at 1550 degrees Celsius. Gas firing occurs from alternate sides of the furnace in 20-minute cycles in a carefully controlled combustion process tailored to ensure maximum energy efficiency and compliance with strict environmental requirements.

The company extended its gas sales agreement with ExxonMobil subsidiary Esso Australia twice last year (most recently in November), meaning Gippsland gas will be used to ensure Oceania Glass’s important manufacturing work continues for several years to come.

“Other technologies can provide a percentage of the overall energy requirement, but currently carbon fuels are one of the only real methods available for glass manufacturing, in particular natural gas”, says Mr Kritzinger.

That’s partially because the carbon in the fuels participates in the glassmaking chemistry process, and secondly, glassmaking is a very high-temperature process and there aren’t too many energy sources that can supply that kind of temperature.

“Certainly, for us as glass manufacturers, there are no real current alternatives for glassmaking outside of natural gas or other carbon fuels.

“We are proud to use Gippsland gas to manufacture our glass for use in Australian homes and buildings.”

To find out more about Oceania Glass, visit their website here: www.oceaniaglass.com.au