The University of Aberdeen’s high voltage DC (HVDC) research centre has joined a European initiative to reduce its use of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
SF6 can be used for various applications, such as medium and high-voltage switchgear and circuit breakers, and is a highly efficient electrical insulator, but has a global warming potential that is 25,200 times greater than carbon dioxide. As such, reducing its usage could be of huge benefit to the overall decarbonisation of grid infrastructure.
The HVDC research team will join 12 partners from nine countries in an EU project dubbed MISSION, which is co-funded by the European Union through Horizon Europe and the UKRI Horizon Europe Guarantee fund. This will look to develop and demonstrate three new SF6-free switchgear components to reduce the power sector’s reliance on the technology.
One such technology will be a medium voltage DC circuit breaker, which will be developed to commercial product via the support of the Aberdeen HVDC research centre.
Atle Pedersen, the leader of the new EU project and research manager at SINTEF Energy, another research centre involved in the project, said: “There is a technology gap here that requires attention, and it’s fortunate that we’ve secured funding for research in this area.
“To achieve the widespread electrification necessary for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, we must enhance our systems to efficiently connect and transfer more renewable energy into the power grid, particularly from offshore wind sources.”
Efforts to reduce SF6 usage
At the start of 2023, National Grid confirmed it would be using green technology to reduce the use of SF6 across its £1 billion London Power Tunnels (LPT) project.
The LPT project aims to rewire south London via deep underground tunnels to provide what it calls “safe and reliable” electricity supplies. The tunnels are three metres in diameter and are being constructed deep below the road network between Wimbledon and Crayford. These tunnels will carry high voltage electricity cables.
For the LPT project, it was confirmed that Hitachi Energy would deliver EconiQ 400kV gas-insulated switchgear and gas-insulated lines, containing no SF6, to reduce the emissions of the Bengeworth Road substation.
It is worth noting SF6 had been instrumental in the creation of the UK power network, however National Grid has made a commitment to reduce SF6 emissions by 50% by 2030, and remove such emissions entirely by 2050.