Monitoring of Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)

Formula: SF6 | CAS: 2551-62-4

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Protecting both people and the environment whilst meeting the operational needs of your business is paramount and if you have operations in the UK you will be well aware of the requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) regulations and likewise the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in the US.

Similar legislation exists worldwide, the common theme being an onus on hazard identification, risk assessment and the provision of appropriate control measures.

Detecting SF6, for health and safety and to protect the environment

Industries | Impact | Exposure
SF6 occurs naturally in trace quantities in sulfur – and uranium – bearing rocks, but the SF6 used commercially is man-made!

Detecting SF6 in its pure state is inert, colourless, tasteless, non-flammable and nontoxic. It is heavier than air, and can accumulate in cable trenches, pits and tunnels. A volume greater than 19% in the air may cause asphyxiation. An appropriate risk assessment should be undertaken in order to determine if cable trenches/tunnels are classified as confined spaces, in which case appropriate control measures for access must be implemented.
– HSE Keeping electrical switchgear safe; HSG230 (2nd edition) Published 2015

Across Europe in 2017 there was an 8.1% rise in emissions of SF6 when total emissions were equivalent to 6.73 mega tonnes of CO2, this represents the volume of greenhouse gas emissions of 1.3 million cars over a 1-year period.

BBC News By Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent

Using SF6 In Electrical Industries

  • it poses no risk of land or water contamination, as with oil-filled equipment.
  • its equipment can be more compact requiring a smaller land area and reducing the visual impact of substations.
  • quieter operations, particularly when compared with air blast circuit breakers.
  • it has longer equipment lifetime, reduced maintenance and higher reliability through hermetic sealing of high voltage conductors inside an earthed enclosure.
  • it is non-flammable.
    – Energy Networks Association (ENA)

SF6 – A Health & Environment Risk

SF6 a cost-effective insulation medium for switchgear. It was first used some 50 years ago, but its use by the electricity industry has only become widespread over the last 20 years or so. It is estimated that the UK electricity industry has about 500 tonnes in use in its switchgear. However, sulfur hexafluoride displaces oxygen and thus carries the risk of asphyxia if too much is inhaled and, being colourless and odourless, detection is impossible with human senses. Being denser than air, if a substantial quantity of gas is released it settles in low-lying areas and if the area is entered presents dangers for workers. This is particularly relevant in its use as an insulator in electrical equipment where workers may be in trenches or pits below equipment containing SF6.
– Wikipedia

It is for this reason that SF6 was named as one of the 6 gases in the Kyoto Protocol, and given reduction targets.

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“Detecting SF6, for health and safety and to protect the environment”

The detecting SF6, for health and safety and to protect the environment guide which can be downloaded below provides the reader with an in-depth balance of knowledge. The guide covers topics on the impact SF6 has on the electrical industries, the risk that is caused for our health and the environment and solutions in which ION Science have to detect such greenhouse gas emissions.


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