The End of SF6: Navigating the Shift to Eco-Friendly Insulation

12.03.2024 Blog

The European Union’s F-gas regulation is being implemented, impacting electrical distribution equipment that utilizes SF6 insulation gas. SF6 gas has been favored historically for its suitability in electrical applications, particularly due to its cost-effectiveness and compactness. However, its environmental impact—should the gas leak following an accident with the electrical equipment—poses a significant downside. While such incidents are infrequent, the potential for leakage has led to a progressive reduction in the use of SF6 over time. The current objective is to phase out its usage entirely.

The EU regulation establishes various deadlines for phasing out the use of SF6 gas in electrical equipment. Initially, from January 1, 2026, connecting new SF6-insulated devices with an insulation voltage of up to 24 kV to the network will be prohibited. By 2030, this prohibition will expand to include all devices with an insulation voltage of up to 52 kV. We contend that the allotted transition period is insufficient and advocate for its extension.

What are the alternatives?

Currently, SF6-free devices are available but in limited quantities. Manufacturers are progressively transitioning to SF6-free technology and are introducing new devices and combinations to the market.

The preferred alternative involves mixtures of different gases, primarily nitrogen and oxygen, commonly known as clean or dry air. Manufacturers often assign proprietary names to these mixtures.

The trend in the development of medium-voltage equipment is to retain the dimensions of existing devices. However, these newer models are generally more material-intensive, heavier, and incorporate more complex materials and technologies, making them significantly more expensive than current solutions.

Harju Elekter’s transition year activities

According to Indrek Ulmas, Harju Elekter’s Product Manager for Medium-Voltage Equipment, we are diligently monitoring the readiness of various manufacturers and are planning to commence trial installations shortly.

Although the ban on SF6 equipment will not take effect until January 1, 2026, the supply chain is already experiencing challenges. A gradual reduction in the production of SF6 equipment is anticipated, alongside an increase in the adoption of new technologies.

Indrek Ulmas further states, “In the upcoming transition years, our focus will be on collaborating closely with both customers and manufacturers to navigate the impending changes successfully.”