Innovating to help build a greener grid
May 12, 2021

When it comes to keeping our electrical power grid reliable, there’s no room for error. Access to dependable electricity helps keep people safe, comfortable and productive – and that’s why it’s crucial to ensure the consistency of the electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure that carries power along the grid.

For decades, sulfur hexafluoride (SF₆) has been used to insulate and protect medium- and high-voltage electric transmission and distribution infrastructure, providing excellent dielectric properties and chemical stability that help prevent short circuits and outages. But while SF₆ provides reliability for the electrical power industry, leaks and unintended releases of SF₆ result in a substantial greenhouse gas impact on the environment.

SF₆ has a global warming potential 23,500 times that of CO2 when compared over a 100-year period. Despite the negative environmental impact, the electric industry has historically been willing to accept SF₆ because of its dielectric properties and reliability.

This challenge led some of 3M’s most innovative scientists to collaborate with industry leaders and develop alternative, sustainable solutions. The results of this extensive development and testing are 3M™ Novec™ Insulating Gases, which are used in gas mixtures to achieve comparable levels of performance with significantly reduced environmental impacts compared to SF₆. These gas mixtures enable greenhouse gas emissions reductions of more than 99% and are used in multiple on-grid evaluations in commercial equipment from industry-leading OEMs.


 

The European Union (EU) 2030 Climate Target Plan proposes to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. In September 2020, the EU released a separate detailed report outlining SF₆ alternatives for use in switchgear and related equipment. This report shows the significant reduction in climate impact of gas mixtures compared to using SF6.

The European Union (EU) 2030 Climate Target Plan proposes to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. In September 2020, the EU released a separate detailed report outlining SF₆ alternatives for use in switchgear and related equipment. This report shows the significant reduction in climate impact of gas mixtures compared to using SF6.

The California Air Resources Board is proposing a regulation, expected to be finalized later this year, that will begin to phase out the use of SF₆ in California.


 

In a recent EU Commission report, commercially available systems using fluoronitrile-based gas mixtures may be the only alternative to SF6 when space is a constraint.


 

As SF₆ alternative gas technologies using 3M Novec Insulating Gases continue to advance and become more widely used across the globe, 3M is proud to help pave the way toward a greener grid and sustainable future by providing a key component of gas mixtures that help enable greenhouse gas emissions reductions of more than 99%.

To learn more about how 3M is positively impacting our planet, visit 3M.com/sustainability.

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