SF6 Gas testing and SF6 leak imaging/quantification technology

The move toward an exemplary Industry-driven stewardship of SF6 gas in the power industry is a major concern to the Industry internationally, especially as greenhouse gas issues have rapidly elevated in public awareness over the past year. Although only responsible for managing some 1.5% of the world’s SF6 gas resource, the power industry cannot operate without this gas. Other uses of the gas (such as blanketing magnesium and aluminium castings) have been widely noted for wastage and caused already an unbelievable level of environmental damage which the power industry is racing to distance itself from.

Throughout the world it would be true to state that there is presently very great interest in improved practices with regard to routine SF6 testing, spurred on various regulators of which the European “F” Gas Commission is a major one.

Considering, firstly, SF6 gas handling trends worldwide, please note firstly the brief pair of attached reprints from the SF6 gas manufacturer Solvay Fluor which give a clear voice to the European reaction to the handling of SF6 gas.

The new European “F” gas regulations are part of the wider interests of Cigre Committee B3 (Task Force B3.02.01 AA2 WG 18) who have now published their guide 234 (SF6 Recycling Guide 2003) and 276 (SF6 handling guide 2005) (see below). Copies of each may be purchased from Cigre via www.cigre.org. The likes of Guide 276 advocates the improved management of gas all phases of switchgear management from commissioning, testing, maintenance, and decommissioning.

Taking this message further, the Task Force are to release an “SF6 gas tightness guide” in early 2008 that will contain all the SF6 best practice handling practices, a reinforcement to containment of gas during testing, as well as very practical guidance on means to repair or contain leaks. It is then expected that the IEC 60694 standard for common specifications for SF6 (including SF6 gas handling) will be updated ( to IEC62271-1) . “Handling” encompasses the entire spectrum of the management of SF6 gas, including containment of lost gas from leakage, lost gas during maintenance and testing, and reclamation.

Clearly, a global support of the SF6 guides and standards above has occurred and is steadily being implemented, even in non-Kyoto signatory countries where formal local regulations might not appear so prominent. With SF6 being some 22,500 times more potent (per kg) in its global warming potential as a greenhouse gas than CO2, this is clearly a serious and appropriately-motivated initiative by the Industry worldwide.

In our experience to date across Australasia, the Industry are certainly worried about SF6 gas loss and are progressively working on both gas management practices and some form of an accounting process to account for all gas handled.

In regard to routine testing of gas condition, there has been a similarly-motivated upgrading of older equipment which was not only hard and time consuming to use, but also wasted gas to atmosphere during the testing process. Although not a high proportion of the lost gas from the Power sector, the Industry has moved increasingly and pro-actively to embrace fully-contained testing devices as part of a total picture of exemplary housekeeping in a self-regulated initiative to ensure the Industry is seen by the European regulatory bodies especially (USA not finished their document yet) and thus not lose the rights to keep up the application of SF6 gas to switching devices.

To this end, the RH Systems’ model RH973 tester was conceived especially by RH Systems in Albuquerque USA (in partnership with MBW in Switzerland) as a unique means of facilitating the latest published SF6 testing concepts, being unrivalled in its environmental compliance as a result of this work. Its integrated SF6 gas retention facility, in-built gas reclamation/pump back system, and lab-quality performance in a rugged field enclosure has logically been attracting excellent market interest worldwide. Indeed, RH Systems report being overwhelmed as the uptake internationally has grown rapidly in the past six months. In this specific regard, and cognizant of the comment in Guide 279 above, you may have the fullest confidence that the RH973 product represents the very best in compliant SF6 handling equipment for field testing.






RH 973 portable SF6 tester with gas storage
and pump-back feature



To complete the picture of SF6 gas testing and containment-managment technologies, LORD Power Equipment now have negotiated a strategic companion product, a gas leak imaging camera from the Californian company, Gas Imaging Technology. The unit is actually an imaging spectrometer tuned to SF6 gas. It is unique on the international market as being the only unit that can quantify in real time the leak rates of the gas being lost. We would be pleased to keep you updated on this very exciting technology which is to be formally released on the Australasian market very early in 2008!!









Sherlock-SF6 portable SF6 gas leak detection camera with leak quantification facility




Thus, whilst the issue of SF6 gas management is pressing and a serious, non-negotiable environmental compliance issue for the Power Industry, viable technical solutions exist to deliver the required levels of performance in the hands of field staff.

LORD Power Equipment would be pleased to assist with the implantation of such technologies