Gas Insulated or Air Insulated Switchgear 

By on

Various arguments exist around SF6 Gas Insulated (GIS) and Air Insulated (AIS) switchgear. Recently we had to change a GIS design to AIS due to an instruction from one of  our clients.  His concern is the global warming potential of SF6.   While understanding the clients reasons, I'm not convinced on the argument.

General arguments in favour of GIS include:

  • GIS is more cost effective
  • requires less space (up to 70% less that Air Insulated)
  • is safer in operation
  • has overall lower system loses
  • has higher protection against ambient conditions
  • is more reliable

As far as I can see the main argument against SF6 is that it has a global warming potential.  From an environmental view, the potential of releasing gas which contributes to global warming is obviously bad.  However, to quantify the effect, Capiel (see link below) has carried out some research:

  • GIS switchgear emissions (Europe, 2002) contribute 0.05% to total greenhouse gas emissions
  • measures implemented in switchgear design since 1995 have reduced GIS gas emissions by 40%
  • there is continuing technological progress in further reducing GIS gas emissions

Key Question

I think the key question in all of this is:

  • do the benefits of a safe reliable, cost effective electrical supply networks outweigh the potential SF6 contribution to greenhouse gas emissions ?

My View

The direct contribution of SF6 to greenhouse gas emissions is relatively low and I tend to think the advantages of a reliable electrical system outweigh these negatives.  Lower system loses and less materials required during manufacture reduce the life cycle carbon emissions, potentially offsetting the negative effects of SF6. 

A life cycle analysis of the German distribution system by Capiel (see link below) which considers materials, manufacture, ohmic losses and SF6 emissions shows that overall GIS contributes 30% less to global warming than AIS. Currently the arguments given against GIS don't appear sufficiently thought out and consider only the SF6 emission issue.

Without closing the door on the debate, I don't see enough evidence to force move away from GIS to AIS. 

Related Links



Steven McFadyen's avatar Steven McFadyen

Steven has over twenty five years experience working on some of the largest construction projects. He has a deep technical understanding of electrical engineering and is keen to share this knowledge. About the author

myElectrical Engineering

comments powered by Disqus



How to Write an Electrical Note

Electrical notes are a collaborative collection of electrical engineering information and educational material. Any registered user can add content. ...

Getting Started with Patents

If you have a great idea or invent something the last thing you want is someone to steal the idea. One of the things you can do is protect the intellectual...

What is LED?

Light Emitting Diodes (LED ) are increasing gaining favour in both the domestic and commercial sectors; due to their efficiency, sustainability and durability...

Welcome back Bottle

‘Kept looking at a card, y’see? Kept looking at it. Welcome back Bottle. Gods below welcome home. The Crippled God A Tale of the Malazan Book of the...

Standard Cable & Wire Sizes

IEC 60228 is the International Electrotechnical Commission's international standard on conductors of insulated cables. Among other things, it defines a...

110 or 230 Volts

I've been considering a blog on the 110 or 230 Volt issue for a while.  While browsing the Internet I came across a great summary by Borat over at  engineering...

Cables for MV Power Distribution - Earthed versus Unearthed Systems

Power cables can basically be classified into earthed and unearthed cables, where earthed and unearthed refer to the application for which the cable is...

How to measure power supply quality

If your are ever called out to troubleshoot something on your electrical system, one of the first things consider is the supply voltage. You want to ensure...

1,000 kV UHV First for China

At the beginning of the year China put the world's first 1,000 kV UHV transmission system into operation. Transmitting power at over a million volts is...

LED Replacement Light Bulb

The inventor of the first visible light-emitting diode makes history again this year as it begins to show customers a 40-watt replacement GE Energy Smart...

Have some knowledge to share

If you have some expert knowledge or experience, why not consider sharing this with our community.  

By writing an electrical note, you will be educating our users and at the same time promoting your expertise within the engineering community.

To get started and understand our policy, you can read our How to Write an Electrical Note