Eaton celebrates its 60th SF6-free anniversary

By 2020, the power management company Eaton will celebrate its 60th anniversary as a leader in green switchgear development and implementation.

Eaton celebrates 60th SF6-free anniversary 1
Eaton Xiria SF6 medium voltage switchgear

Eaton also celebrates that by 2020, the company has reached a milestone of 1 million delivered fields for air-insulated switchgear.

Eaton has been a pioneer in the production of medium voltage switchgear without SF6 since the 1960s, when their first Magnefix system came on the market. The compact coupling equipment was based on molded resin insulation, which made it possible to produce safe and compact coupling equipment without SF6.

Demand for the Magnefix plants was high and the company had to quickly set up production plants in Spain, South Africa and Australia to meet the demand. In 2003, Eaton also acquired Delta PLC’s electrical division, which included the Holec, MEM and Bill brands, to meet the needs of a global market.

In 2002, Eaton introduced another SF6-free plant to the market: Xiria. Xiria is a modern coupling device that is metal encased and comes with dielectric smart design and vacuum coupling technology. It is used today, for example, for switchgear in commercial industrial buildings, data centers, roads and railways, as well as loop units (RMUs) at large grid operators, just to name a few of the many applications.

The electricity industry is actively acting on climate change

There is broad agreement that it is no longer acceptable for Europe to grant exemptions to harmful greenhouse gas emissions in contexts where appropriate alternatives exist. And that is what is happening today in the electrical switchgear market, although many continue to use the harmful SF6 systems.

SF6 is a gas that has been used in many consumer and industrial products due to its unique insulating ability. It is a relatively inexpensive, odorless and non-flammable gas and is therefore used as an insulating medium. The gas is used in all industries: Large construction projects, renewable energy plants and often in electric transformer stations, located in cities around the world.

But as SF6 gas ranks at the top of the International Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC) list of extremely harmful greenhouse gases with a global warming potential (GWP) 23,500 times greater than that of CO₂, lawmakers have decided to ban the use of the gas where it is possible. In the 2014 update of the F-gas regulation, the EU has banned the use of SF6 in the manufacture of many common consumer goods, including tennis balls, sports shoes, car tires and double glazing. However, scientific studies show that concentrations of SF6 gas in the atmosphere continue to rise. This trend is expected to accelerate due to the gradual introduction of a decentralized electricity grid in Europe.

Because of the rising global concern about climate change, Eaton and several other companies have become involved Green Switching movement, which aims to stop the use of SF6 gas in medium voltage coupling equipment.

The use of SF6 gas for switchgear in the distribution network is not only undesirable – it is also no longer necessary as there are good alternatives. For example, vacuum coupling combined with solid insulation is a safe and environmentally friendly solution that has been used in Europe and worldwide for many years. It is not a new technology, but a proven, cost-effective and reliable solution for which Eaton can now celebrate its 60th anniversary.