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Pilkington rolls along with multi-year project

Post Time:Sep 23,2008Classify:Company NewsView:593

A major part of Pilkington North America's multi-year, $70 million improvement and repair project is nearly complete.
Work began on replacing the Ottawa plant's furnace in June and is expected to start making glass by Thursday, but will not be full strength for several weeks.

"Because these furnaces are under such stress and heat ... They operate up to 15 years at 24 hours a day seven days a week," said Todd Huffman, vice president of strategic planning for Pilkington. "At the end of its life, we have to literally take a backhoe into the building and demolish the old furnace. We knock it down, pile up the rubble, take it away and then build a new one."

For more than a century, Pilkington and its predecessor, Libbey-Owens-Ford, have operated the glass plant next to the village of Naplate. In 2004, Pilkington launched a series of programs to modernize the plant, and the company also began talking with Ottawa about annexing into the city and hooking onto the city's sewer and water system. The annexation was finalized in early 2005.

Huffman said workers "started to warm up the furnace" on Aug. 30, and the furnace is not expected to begin production until Thursday.

The furnace, at full operation, has a temperature of approximately 3,000 degrees.

"We put a cullet -- glass that's scrap or has been broken up -- into the cold furnace, turn the heat on on Aug. 30, and we start pulling the glass out of the furnace on Sept. 19," Huffman said.

Huffman added the plant has been "down cold" for three months.

"So we had to build an inventory so we could cover orders during that time," Huffman said.

The furnace, or the actual melter, is approximately 70 feet long and 40 feet wide, with glass four feet deep.

Following in the line is a vessel that resembles a furnace, only a little smaller, where the glass goes to "settle down," Huffman said.

Pilkington produces 500 tons of glass a day.

The project has brought visitors from across the globe to Ottawa and Naplate.

"We are a worldwide company, as part of the (Nippon Sheet Glass) group based in Japan, and we like to bring in people who are experts in their individual fields, which could be ... furnacing, construction, coating, cutting the glass, annealing the glass ...

"And two things are happening here. We have situations where we're bringing in workers for their expertise and making sure we get this right because this is a big investment and others who haven't seen this exact application before and can then apply it to other places around the world," Huffman said.

The furnace rebuilding was phase two of Pilkington's progressive repair project, which is expected to be totally completed in 2011.

Phase one, which started in early 2005, included improvement of the backup power systems, new furnace support equipment and infrastructure upgrades.

The third phase includes repair of the batch plant, which is nearly 60 years old, Huffman said.

"Try to envision a large piece of equipment with silos, and in the silos are the components to mix into glass. You mix those like cake mix, and it's then it's fed into the furnace."

That project could cost up to $15 million and will take about two years to complete.

Pilkington manufactures and markets flat and safety glass for the building and automotive markets. The Ottawa operation is one of six float glass lines in the United States.

Source: mywebtimes.comAuthor: shangyi

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