HyBrick™ – The world’s first 100% hydrogen-fired clay bricks by Michelmersh.
A New Era of Sustainable Construction Materials.
Michelmersh secured funding from the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of the Industrial Fuel Switching competition. The company conducted a feasibility study to replace natural gas with hydrogen in brick manufacturing. This initiative is part of the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), which aims to support low-carbon technologies and reduce decarbonization costs. The project aims were to showcase the viability of hydrogen fuel switching by implementing it in the clay brick production process at Michelmersh’s Freshfield Lane site. It sought to inspire transformation in the industry and provide evidence-based research to assist manufacturers in significantly reducing their carbon emissions.
Michelmersh, as the organization spearheading the BEIS ‘Deep Decarbonisation of Brick Manufacturing’ project, has taken an additional stride by establishing a dedicated brand, HyBrick™, to enhance the visibility and knowledge sharing of the project’s progress and insights. Working alongside a panel of expert partners, and after an introduction by Hydrogen Sussex, the consortium included Limpsfield Combustion, Net Zero Associates, the University of Brighton, Greater South East Net Zero Hub, FT Pipeline Systems, Geopura and Safety Monitors.
The feasibility was a success
The three hydrogen burns showed that it is technically possible to fire bricks. All three hydrogen trials were successful and achieved reductions in gas carbon emissions of 80 – 84%. This data was verified by the Air Quality Monitoring results, where CO2 emissions were directly monitored during all hydrogen trials and one natural gas burn.
A Global Flagship Feasibility Study
The consortium of partners were excited to utilize green electrolytic hydrogen for an innovative study to transform the brick manufacturing industry. This first HyBrick™ study tested specific infrastructure components to ensure the capability of hydrogen firing and evaluate any impact on the quality, integrity, and aesthetics of the bricks. Comparison with control bricks produced using natural gas was conducted to meet technical requirements, and independent testing will determine the durability and structural performance.
The study explored hydrogen production solutions to create a sustainable future for the ceramics industry. Sarah Le Gresley, Michelmersh’s Group Innovation Director and Sustainability Group Chair, and Michael Brophy, Group Production Director, were enthusiastic about showcasing the Group’s progressive approach to sustainability and exploring new technologies and methods.
Green electrolytic hydrogen was used for this innovative study, helping to enable a movement toward low-carbon hydrogen and provide a pathway to the net-zero future that our country is aspiring towards. This HyBrick™ study explored the testing of specific infrastructure components to prove hydrogen firing capability and determine any impact on overall quality, brick integrity or aesthetics. Data was collected and analysed to ascertain any effect to process temperatures or stability. The bricks were then compared against control bricks (produced using 100% 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 and conducted throughout the project were dedicated health and safety risk analysis, assessments and training, alongside air quality performance testing.
A limited quantity of HyBrick™ products will be presented to engaged customers and stakeholders to celebrate Michelmersh’s achievement and encourage unity on the journey to positive change.
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% of our electricity provided by renewable sources (achieving 91.5% by the end of 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. Our Sustainability Group sees this project as just one string to its bow, while also undertaking a variety of research and feasibility projects to determine the most carbon-efficient and commercially sensible solutions to complete its ambitious sustainability roadmap.”Frank Hanna, Joint CEO of Michelmersh
Supply Chain Sustainability School HyBrick case study
As Fuel Switching from natural gas represents the highest reduction potential in embodied carbon on our road to reach net zero, it was clear to Michelmersh we needed to focus on where the most significant reduction could occur.Visit Michelmersh’s HyBrick webpage