Have you ever wondered if your professional contributions have an impact? 

A few weeks ago, I saw a joint press release between GE and Hitachi ABB announcing a non-exclusive, cross-licensing agreement regarding the use of an alternative gas to sulfur hexafluoride (SF₆) in high voltage equipment. This landmark agreement was announced prior to Earth Day and will help to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by utilities. This announcement brought a smile to my face as I realized that, in a small way, I have contributed to a greener planet.

For over 50 years, SF₆ has provided the high-voltage equipment industry with exceptional arc-quenching and voltage withstand performance. Now, with the sustainability of the planet becoming a universal concern, the power transmission sector is looking for a replacement. Why? Well, the global warming potential of SF₆ is 23,500 times that of CO₂ and it remains in the atmosphere for 3,200 years. 

Its atmospheric concentration has also increased by 20% over the past five years. Early 2006, regulations were enacted by the European Union to limit or reduce the use of fluorinated gases in a number of industrial applications. Known as the F-gas regulation, it was updated in 2015 to strengthen previous measures and introduce new, far-reaching policies aimed at limiting, preventing, and in some cases, banning emissions. 

During my tenure at 3M Company, I managed a dedicated scientific and business team whose goal was to develop and bring to market an alternative solution to SF₆ for use as an insulation gas in electrical equipment. With medium- and high-voltage switchgear and transformer uses in mind, and drawing from existing expertise in fluorinated chemistries, the team successfully realized the objective of creating a sustainable insulation material. This breakthrough minimized greenhouse gases while still providing comparable electrical properties, chemical stability, and low toxicity. Decades in its development, this breakthrough technology was brought to a number of global manufacturers and electrical grid utilities. The right stuff at the right time!

The flagship fluid, known as 3M(™) Novec (™)4710 Insulating Gas, is a fluoronitrile material proving to be a viable and attractive alternative to SF₆. Early global engagement included Schneider Electric, Alstom (now GE Grid Solutions), and ABB in the European Union, with electric utilities such as National Grid and RWE expressing strong support for the technology. Fast forward several years and we now see that several utilities, including SP Energy Networks, RTE, Axpo, Tennet, and 50 Hertz, have already implemented the new gas solution on their own networks.

The underlying message is that a sea change in commitment on the part of the electrical industry is required to advance sustainable solutions towards a greener planet. This takes leadership, vision, tenacity, and significant investment to realize this innovation.

At Match Point Strategies, we live our commitments to our customers and their goals. Find out how we can work with you to attain your sustainable business objectives.

Published On: May 27th, 2021 / Categories: Advanced Materials, Alternative Energy /