‘Why Nigeria, others should eliminate use of SF6 gas in appliances’

The Regional Sales Manager West Africa, Eaton Powering Business Worldwide, Charles Iyo, has called on Nigeria and African governments to take proactive steps and implement regulations to stop the use of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) gas in electrical appliances.

Iyo, who made the call yesterday at the Power, Water Exhibition and Conference 2022, held in Lagos, with the theme: ‘A Call to Action on the ‘dirtiest’ greenhouse gas in clean energy; said SF6 is one of the world’s most potent greenhouse gasses that is dangerous to the climate and humans, which is mostly used in switchgear production.

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) gas. Photo/concordegas

He said some governments across the world were already taking proactive measures to stop the use of SF6 gas in switchgear production.

“SF is dangerous to the environment. It comprises a sulphur atom and six fluorine atoms and each SF6 molecule is devastatingly dangerous to the climate. Of all the greenhouse gases, it is, by far, the most powerful. Just one kilogramme of SF6 is equivalent to 23,500 kilogrammes of CO2 in global warming potential, and each unit of switchgear is estimated to use 2.5 kilogrammes of SF6 gas. The scale of the problem is evident.

“Governments in Africa, Nigeria specifically, need to stand up to the challenge. We are overdue for new regulations. All electrical industry stakeholders must collaborate on this to ensure that regulations are adhered to while the future is protected,” he said.

According to him, SF6 gas causes 80 per cent emissions of in the energy industry.

He said switchgear provides overcurrent and short circuit protection to downstream assets, but in recent years, a concern that is unconnected with operational effectiveness has come to the fore.

Iyo said electricians and electrical engineers rely on switchgear every day, which is the umbrella term for devices that control, protect and isolate power systems, and there are millions of them in operation.

He said electrical switchgear sits in the background in settings such as offices, shops, and hospitals, as some of it contains SF, one of the world’s most potent greenhouse gasses.

“At the root of the problem is Sulphur Hexafluoride, more commonly known as SF6, which has been used as an insulator and arc extinguisher in some medium- and high-voltage switchgear for the past 50 years.

“SF or sulphur hexafluoride is a colorless, odorless, synthetic gas. It has profound chemical robustness that protects it from the reaction. Its high dielectric strength, which increases further under pressure, makes it an excellent electrical insulator.

He said as the environmental dangers of fluorine gases became apparent, governments started phasing them out.

He noted that the European Union’s legislative response to F-gasses included its 2015 ban on the use of SFS in every application except switchgear, with the European Commission announcing its proposal for a revision of the F-Gas Regulation calling for a total ban of SF6.

Iyo, however, called for an alternative to SF, which is the vacuum technology, noting that renewables could make the difference, adding that Eaton has been at the forefront of eliminating SF6 gas.

“Renewable generation is driving growth in the new switchgear market and this ups the ante in more ways than one. If there is a good time to go SF-free, that time is right now. The Eaton medium voltage switchgear systems are based on the use of vacuum switches combined with solid insulation material. This is an environmentally-friendly technology in comparison with the methods used by many other suppliers, which use SF as an insulation gas,” he said.