Common SF6 Gas Hazards & How to Avoid Them

By North Central Electric,

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sf6 gasWhen it comes to power transmission and distribution, sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) plays an important, but sometimes dangerous role. As an insulator and arc quencher, SF6 is used in switchgear, circuit breakers, and disconnectors, keeping the electricity where it belongs. However, like any tool related to the electrical industry, SF6 comes with its own set of hazards that need to be understood and managed to maintain the well-being of equipment, personnel, and the environment.

What is SF6?

SF6 is a colorless, odorless, and non-flammable gas with excellent dielectric, or insulating, strength. It is considered non-toxic but can pose dangers of asphyxiation when it reaches high enough percentages. When sealed inside power transmission and distribution equipment, it prevents dangerous electrical arcs, making it an important part of electrical safety protocols.

Common Hazards

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

SF6 has the highest Global Warming Potential (GWP) of any known gas. It lingers in the atmosphere for 3,200 years, making it 22,800 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat. Managing and minimizing SF6 leaks is crucial to combat climate change.

Equipment Failure

Leaks in gas-insulated equipment reduce the gas’s protective capacity against electrical arcs, leading to lost signals, short circuits, malfunctions, and eventual equipment failure. These failures are expensive and can lead to bigger issues, including power outages and even electrical fires. Even a modest 10% gas loss can cause permanent equipment damage.

Health Risks

While SF6 is non-toxic, it is about five times heavier than air and its escape can displace oxygen in low-lying areas. This is especially important when workers spend extended time in trenches and pits, highlighting the importance of proper handling and monitoring.

Avoiding SF6 Gas Hazards

Continuous Monitoring

To mitigate these issues, regular monitoring and maintenance of gas-insulated equipment is crucial. NCE technicians are trained in the proper testing of equipment and handling of the gas itself. Regular checks on the quantity of gas available within the equipment and the quality is important. When moisture builds up inside the equipment, it can cause the SF6 to degrade. When gas levels drop below a certain purity threshold, technicians can initiate cleaning procedures.

Expert Gas Handling Services

Working with NCE means working with technicians who are fully trained and qualified to handle SF6, including monitoring and analysis, filling, reclamation, and disposal. With NCE, you don’t need to worry about your gas management. 

Why Choose NCE for SF6 Gas Handling Services

Safety is Our Top Priority

At North Central Electric Inc. (NCE), we understand how important SF6 is for electrical operations. Our technicians are trained in the latest practices and regulations, ensuring safety is never compromised.

Qualified Technicians

NCE technicians are fully trained and qualified to handle every step of the gas handling process. Whether it’s filling new SF6 breakers, transporting to and from job sites, or disposing of used SF6, our experts execute every task with precision.

Regulatory Compliance

Disposal of SF6 must adhere to strict environmental and personnel regulations. NCE has the technology, experience, and clearance to dispose of gases with properly accredited incineration plants so your operations remain uninterrupted.

Keeping the workplace safe from SF6 gas hazards requires a comprehensive approach. Regular monitoring coupled with professional gas handling services is both a regulatory requirement and a commitment to the safety of your personnel, equipment, and the environment. At NCE, we ensure that every component of your gas handling is carried out with the utmost precision and in compliance with industry standards.

If you need to educate your employees on what SF6 is or if you’re ready to improve your overall gas management, contact NCE today at (215) 945-7632. Our expert gas-handling services are guaranteed to keep your operations running smoothly.