Below is an overview of how the latest proposed updates to the European Commission’s F-gas regulation affect those involved in switchgear specification, installation and maintenance.

The latest proposed update to the European Commission’s F-gas regulation includes new deadlines and guidelines for the distribution sector and the use of medium-voltage gas-insulated switchgear (MV GIS). Below is an overview of how the latest guidance affects specifying, installing and maintaining SF6 MV GIS.

F-gas Regulation Update Guide

Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) are a family of man-made gases used in many important industrial applications. The most damaging is SF6 (sulfur hexafluoride gas), which contributes 25,200 times more global warming than carbon dioxide. However, it also has unique dielectric properties that make it an extremely popular electrical insulation solution in power systems and is widely used for current interruptions in transmission and distribution.

The use of F-gas was first regulated in 2006, when the European Union (EU) passed its original F-gas regulation, a move that resulted in EU F-gas emissions stabilizing by 2010, although at this time, SF6 alternatives GIS for primary use is not readily available in the market. The original legislation was amended in 2015, when a 2030 deadline was set to reduce F-gas emissions in the region by two-thirds compared to 2014 levels.

With new regulatory proposals published in April 2022 set to come into force before the end of the decade and more suitable alternatives on the market, the EU hopes the process will gain further impetus.

If passed, the new amendments would ban the use of SF6 in medium-voltage electrical equipment for applications up to 24 kV from 2026 and in medium-voltage electrical equipment for applications up to 52 kV from 2030.

While the EU Parliament will hold consultations, stakeholder meetings and debates over the next 12 to 18 months to finalize the proposal, the proposed regulation banning the use of SF6 in new projects is expected to become law.

Impact of F-gas regulations on power distribution

Current F-gas regulations prescribe prudent management practices for SF6 switchgear in operation, focusing on leakage prevention, record keeping and the use of certified technicians to handle switchgear containing more than 6 kg of SF6. However, new rules proposed by the EU will make it mandatory for all newly installed SF6-free switchgear.

At this point, there will be a considerable period of coexistence between newly installed SF6-free products and the existing global installed base of SF6 GIS. However, operators should not see this as a reason to delay their own migration to sustainable switchgear.

Environmental impact of SF6

From an environmental perspective, SF6 has tens of thousands of times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and is also a very stable chemical with a lifetime of 3,200 years in the atmosphere, even when usage decreases.

But it also makes sense from a financial standpoint. If organizations wait until the last minute to find a replacement for SF6 switchgear, they are more likely to experience longer lead times or higher costs once the change takes effect.

Migrating to an SF6-free future

The first step for any business considering starting a move to an SF6-free future is education. Understanding the changes in the market and the solutions available to help you succeed is an important starting point. Webinars, consultations, presentations, and literature are all positive ways to expand an organization’s understanding of the topic. Manufacturers of SF6-free switchgear can provide information on available options.

Pilot Alternative Switchgear Technology

Experimenting with alternative switchgear is the next logical step. There are two main alternative technologies – one based on maintaining a low voltage design that requires the use of new insulating gas at voltages above 12 kV, and the other using compressed air over the entire voltage range, but with significant pressure above 12 kV. increasing.

At high pressures, the consequences of pressure loss are different and, in the worst case, can lead to internal arcing faults, resulting in equipment damage and power outages.

If organizations have enough time to complete the pilot and analyze the performance of different solutions without rushing, the third stage of their migration — specification — can be relatively painless. Operators should discuss their needs with manufacturing partners. In some cases, they can even speed up the process by upgrading the technology before it hits the public market.

Finally, it’s time to do a bulk install for all new projects, which should happen as early as possible.

As legislation approaches, more and more organizations are developing volume specifications for SF6-free GIS. Partnering with the most experienced suppliers and embedding your SF6-free GIS batch specifications in advance after your pilot is complete will allow you to better comply with regulatory changes once they become effective.

Reviewing Editor: Peng Jing

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