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The European Union (EU) has released a report on the replacement of the SF6 gas in the switchgears

On September 30, 2020, the EU released a detailed report outlining alternatives to SF6 for use in switchgear and related equipment.
You can find full EU report from this link : https://ec.europa.eu/clima/sites/clima/files/news/docs/c_2020_6635_en.pdf
The report also extensively covers market impact and cost issues. This is the latest in a series of indications that the pressure is on to phase out SF6, as part of the EU’s mission to cut harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by two-thirds between 2014 and 2030. Replacing SF6 would be a significant contribution by the energy distribution industry as it the biggest GHG contributor for this sector.

Environmental Issues SF6 gas:

The September 2020 EU report forms part of the EU’s review of the F-Gas Regulation, which is in a public  consultation period until the end of December 2020, and EU Commission adoption is planned for the fourth quarter of 2021. Tighter regulation around SF6 in the energy industry is one of the expected outcomes.

Even before the September 2020 report, the spotlight was already on SF6, for instance it is listed in the Kyoto Protocol. With a global warming potential (GWP) of 23,500, SF6 is considered the most potent of greenhouse gases. A recent study by the University of Antwerp (5) also suggests that reported SF6 emissions are underestimated and provides a projection of potential CO2 equivalent savings for a SF6 phase out, using the example of 145kV gas insulation switchgear (GIS).

SF6 gas alternatives:

Given that evaluating and implementing alternatives will take several years for an energy provider, there is no time to lose. The biggest challenge is to find a solution that lives up to SF6’s performance legacy, as well as meeting environmental requirements. The good news is that through the collective R&D of experienced switchgear manufacturers and other experts, today power utilities have several alternatives to SF6.

There are three main alternative approaches to SF6 replacements in play today: based on 3M Novec 5110 Insulating Gas which is a C5-Fluoroketone; based on 3M Novec 4710 which is a C4-Fluoronitrile; and dry air based in combination with a vacuum interrupter. These are all outlined in the EU report, as well as another report published in February 2020, by T&D Europe (6), the European association of the electricity transmission and distribution equipment and services industry.

For more infomation about SF6 alternative gas in switchgears please see this article.

Switchgear Manufacturers Pushing the Boundaries:

Switchgear manufacturers behind these alternatives continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and nearly all of them have also responded to the EU roadmap for the F-gas revision with detailed proposals for an SF6 phase out.

In addition, some manufacturers have also published their development road map or objectives to extend their SF6-free portfolio.

GE Grid Solutions is using a gas mixture based on 3M Novec 4710 Insulating Gas in its g3 (pronounced “g cubed”) technology. GE has announced a g3 roadmap until 2025 to extend its SF6-free portfolio up to 420kV which also includes an EU Life funded project.

AirPlus is a gas mixture using Novec 5110 Insulating Gas from 3M and is used by ABB in MV equipment, and by Hitachi ABB Power Grids in HV equipment. ABB has also announced its objective that up to 90% of its GIS portfolio variants will be SF6 free. Hitachi ABB Power Grids has an ongoing project with German utility TransnetBW  to upgrade a 380kV substation with its eco-efficient, SF6 free technology.

Additional switchgear manufacturers, such as Siemens Energy  and Schneider Electric, have made similar announcements expanding their SF6 -free portfolios.

Regardless of the chosen approach to replacing SF6, the EU report estimates that — depending on the voltage class — a full commercialization of alternative solutions is already realistic after a transition period of two to five years, for example for MV, and for HV GIS up to 145kV. The report also evaluates potential cost increases and concludes that “in general, where the SF6-free alternatives are more costly than switchgear containing SF6, policy intervention is likely to be needed to trigger a transition.”

In the meantime, switchgear manufacturers will continue to develop SF6 replacements beyond current voltage levels, and as the clock is ticking, now is the time for utility companies to start planning for an SF6-free future. After all, rather than wait to be forced to act, it is better to have sufficient time to evaluate alternatives and phase-out strategies, in the interests of utility firms and the planet alike.

Source: T&D world website

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