Hitachi ABB Power Grids and GE Agreement on Alternative Gas to SF6 for High Voltage Equipment

Hitachi ABB Power Grids and GE Renewable Energy’s Grid Solutions business signed a non-exclusive, cross-licensing agreement related to the use of an alternative gas to sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) used in high voltage equipment. This fluoronitrile-based gas mixture has a significantly reduced impact on the environment compared to SF6.


Under this landmark agreement announced just before Earth Day 2021 between two global leaders in power technologies – both companies will share complementary intellectual property related to their respective SF6-free solutions. This will help accelerate the use of fluoronitrile-based eco-efficient insulation and switching gas in high-voltage equipment as an alternative to SF6. A recent EU Commission report concluded that fluorinitrile-based gas mixtures may be the only insulating and switching gas alternative to SF6 when space is a constraint.

This historic agreement paves the way for a standard SF6-free solution for high-voltage equipment in the coming years. This would enable utilities and industries to accelerate their reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, while facilitating their ability to plan, as well as operate and maintain their networks thanks to standardized services and the use of the same auxiliary equipment.

For almost half a century, SF6 gas has been the norm in the electrical power transmission and distribution industry due to its unique physical properties. It is, however, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming if leaked. For this reason, Hitachi ABB Power Grids and GE have been investing in the development of better alternatives to SF6.

“As part of our commitment towards a carbon-neutral future and accelerating the energy transition, we have chosen to work towards a standard solution to address the needs of our customers through this cross-licensing agreement,” said Markus Heimbach, Managing Director of the High Voltage Products business in Hitachi ABB Power Grids. “As a technology leader, we have always been at the frontier of gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) that became a key enabler for urbanization and installed the very first SF6-free GIS that significantly reduces carbon footprint,” he added.

“Utilities are becoming increasingly aware of their environmental footprint and the impact it has on their communities and the world around them. This landmark agreement reinforces our commitment to help our customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” said Heiner Markhoff, CEO of GE’s Grid Solutions. “GE pioneered this fluoronitrile-based gas which we named g3 and subsequently developed a broad SF6-free product range. Our g3 SF6-free products have been commercially available since 2015 and feature the same compactness and performance as traditional SF6 equipment,” he also mentioned.

The two companies will keep the product development, manufacturing, sales, marketing, and service activities of their gas solutions fully independent. Each company will continue to independently grant and set terms of licenses to its respective intellectual property, hence preserving supplier base diversity for the industry and fair competition.

 

g3 – SF6 Alternative for high voltage applications

SF6 (or Sulphur Hexafluoride) had been the standard gas used inside high voltage electrical equipment as an insulating and arc-quenching medium. However, SF6 is also listed as an extremely potent greenhouse gas according to the Kyoto protocol, with 23,500 times the comparative Global Warming Potential of CO2 and a lifetime of 3,200 years in the atmosphere. With grid operators across the world becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental impact, GE offers a commercially available and viable alternative to SF6 to help utilities and industries reduce their environmental impact.

 

Introducing g3 insulating and switching gas

g³ (pronounced ‘g’ cubed) is GE’s game-changing alternative to SF6 gas, developed for HV electrical transmission equipment.

g³ products feature the same ratings and same dimensional footprint as the state-of-the-art SF6 ones, with a drastically reduced environmental impact: more than 99% less gas global warming potential (GWP), comparatively. Also, g³ products operate with no restriction under the same temperature range as SF6 products (down to -30°C).

Like SF6, g3 is non-toxic and not flammable. It falls in the same safety class as SF6.

GE’s g3 products are type-tested and available for live-tank circuit breaker, gas-insulated substations (GIS) up to 145 kV, air insulated switchgear (AIS), and gas-insulated lines (GIL) up to 420 kV.

 

World’s first gas-insulated switchgear installation with eco-efficient gas mixture

Hitachi ABB Power Grids has commissioned the world’s first high-voltage and medium-voltage gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) installation with a new eco-efficient gas mixture as an alternative to sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas for ewz, a power utility in Switzerland.

The 170/24 kV substation deploys the first breakthrough GIS with an eco-efficient gas mixture with a global warming potential (GWP) of less than 1 as an alternative to SF6 gas.

Located in the heart of Zurich, 15 meters underground in a beautifully designed building, it replaces an outdoor air-insulated switchgear (AIS) substation built-in 1949. The new substation takes up only 30 percent of the originally used space, thus freeing up land for other city requirements and enhancing the aesthetics of the cityscape.

With the deployment of high-voltage GIS with the eco-efficient gas mixture, carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions can be lowered by up to 50 percent through the lifecycle of the equipment.

 

Main data

Year of installation 2015

Type of switchgear ELK-14 AirPlus

Rated voltage          170 kV

Rated current          1250 A

Rated frequency      50 Hz

Short-circuit current               40 kA

 

About Hitachi ABB Power Grids

Hitachi ABB Power Grids is a global technology leader with a combined heritage of almost 250 years, employing around 36,000 people in 90 countries. Headquartered in Switzerland, the business serves utility, industry and infrastructure customers across the value chain, and emerging areas like sustainable mobility, smart cities, energy storage and data centers. With a proven track record, global footprint and unparalleled installed base, Hitachi ABB Power Grids balances social, environmental, and economic values. It is committed to powering good for a sustainable energy future, with pioneering and digital technologies, as the partner of choice for enabling a stronger, smarter, and greener grid.

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