A pricey cap on emissions for California
New legislation on greenhouse gas emissions in California will force glass manufacturers to find ways of limiting emissions in an energy-intensive industry while remaining competitive in the global market.
The California legislature passed a bill Aug. 31 to drastically reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the state by year 2020. The bill targets power plants and manufacturers, including float-glass companies.
“This bill will have a considerable impact on our operations,” says Michael W. Turnbull, director of international environmental management for Guardian Industries Corp. of Auburn Hills, Mich. “It will be just another significant cost to conduct manufacturing operations in California.”
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 authorizes the California Air Resources Board in Sacramento to measure greenhouse gas emissions from major pollution sources. Once they calculate the totals, regulators will issue emissions limits for each industry to take effect in 2012. The bill requires emissions to return to 1990 levels by 2020, a 25-to-30 percent reduction, according to an Aug. 31 article in the Los Angeles Times.
AFG Glass of Kingsport, Tenn., Guardian, PPG Industries of Pittsburgh, and Pilkington of the United Kingdom, all operate float-glass manufacturing facilities in the state.
Philip Ross, president of Glass Industry Consulting in Laguna Niguel, Calif., says the regulations will hinder glass companies’ ability to compete in the global market.
“How will California manufacturers compete with China? This is a big concern from the business perspective,” Ross says. He worries that California companies will be forced to absorb and pass along costs associated with emissions reduction.
Furnaces represent a huge capital investment for companies, Ross explains, and any alterations or innovative approaches to manufacturing that might cut down on emissions carry prohibitive costs.
Two possible methods to control emissions at a float-glass plant include adopting an oxygen fuel combustion process or adding a pollution-control device to the combustion system, says George Pecoraro, a former PPG staff engineer.
“Since PPG’s unit in Fresno uses an oxy-fuel combustion system, [nitrogen-oxide emissions] are low,” Pecoraro says.
While the direct emissions may be less from a float plant with oxy-fuel, Turnbull says the electricity used to make the oxygen also produces greenhouse gas emissions.
“The electricity required to produce oxygen is also covered under the greenhouse-gas emissions program,” Turnbull says. “The greenhouse gas impact on electricity consumption will probably negate the benefit from oxy-firing.”
Instead of forcing glass manufacturers to change their processes to reduce emissions, Ross says California officials should work with companies to manufacture more high-performance products—products architects already demand.
“The other side of the whole story is how flat glass is going to actually reduce greenhouse gases in secondary ways,” Ross says. “Glass has the ability to make buildings more efficient, require less heating and less air conditioning.”
To read about energy consumption in the float-glass manufacturing process, see “Energy Guzzler” in the December 2005 issue of Glass magazine.