Is there a place for SF6 in the transition toward a low carbon future in transport, energy and industry?

 

The recent drive for electrification has led to a dramatic increase in the use of Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6). A dielectric gas, SF6 is used to prevent short circuits and catastrophic incidents within the electrical industry. Despite its desirable electrical insulation properties, SF6 is a highly potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential (GWP) 23,500 times greater than that of CO2.       

In a bid to reach targets set to combat climate change, we are seeing a large increase in the number of sustainable forms of energy such as wind, solar and gas. In turn, this has driven an increase of SF6 usage in high voltage applications such as switchgears and circuit breakers.

Benefits to using SF6 include excellent insulation, non-inflammable and chemical stability, minimum maintenance, outstanding arc quenching properties and reduced electrical clearances. 

So, where’s the catch? In 2017 within the EU alone, emissions of SF6 cost the climate the equivalent of putting an extra 1.3 million cars on the road. A study from the University of Cardiff found that across all transmission and distribution networks, the amount of SF6 used was increasing by 30-40 tonnes per year. The global installed base of SF6 is expected to grow by 75% by 2030.

According to the BBC’s latest article, the most important means by which SF6 gets into the atmosphere is from leaks in the electrical industry. A sustainable replacement for SF6 is unlikely to be made available anytime soon, however actions can be taken to ensure better gas monitoring and management to reduce SF6 leakage.

Arced SF6 gas is poisonous and with imperfect joints leading to leaks of SF6, continuous monitoring is essential. Dependent on the application there are a range of monitoring solutions available. Shawcity offers handheld, portable and continuous fixed monitoring solutions for applications ranging from spot checks through to accurate measurement. Using negative ion capture (NIC) our devices can measure leaks as low as 1 x 10-8ml/sec, with no need for carrier gasses or radioactive sources. Basic SF6 monitoring can be as easy as ‘switch on and go’. Contact us for further information or to discuss your requirements.

 

01367 899533
solutions@shawcity.co.uk

 

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