EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear

EU F-Gas Regulations - High Voltage Switchgear

This guidance is for organisations affected by the 2014 EU F-Gas Regulation (517/2014). The F-Gas
Regulation creates controls on the use and emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-Gases)
including HFCs, PFCs and SF6.

In the switchgear sector, the F-Gas Regulation affects the use of SF6 as an insulating gas in various
types of high voltage equipment. The 2014 EU F-Gas Regulation replaces the 2006 Regulation,
strengthening all of the 2006 requirements and introducing a number of important new measures.

The F-Gas Regulation is an important piece of legislation that will result in significant reductions in the
emissions of F-Gases. These are very powerful greenhouse gases, with global warming impacts that
are several thousand times higher than CO2 (per kg of gas emitted). All EU Member States agree that
it is important to reduce emissions of these gases.

This Information Sheet describes the requirements that apply to high voltage switchgear.

Sector Description

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear

The electricity industry makes use of equipment insulated with SF6. Most SF6 is used in circuit
breakers, although it can also be used in related equipment such as switches, disconnectors, current
transformers and voltage transformers.

There are 2 main categories of high voltage switchgear used in the electricity transmission and distribution system:

a) Transmission switchgear, is typically used in systems at voltages between 66 kV and 400 kV.
Equipment filled with SF6 falls in two broad categories i.e. gas insulated switchgear (GIS) and
air insulated switchgear (AIS). GIS equipment is significantly smaller than equivalent AIS and
makes possible compact substations in urban and other areas, where its compactness gives
the only practical solution for the electricity network. GIS can contain many tens or hundreds
of kg of SF6. GIS usually has a number of segregated metal enclosures with jointed
components that enable engineers to get access to the systems for maintenance purposes.
AIS are also large sized equipment, typically containing tens of kg of SF6. AIS also has jointed SF6 containing components.

b) Medium voltage switchgear, is typically used in the range of 3.3 to 33 kV. These are much
smaller pieces of equipment and are usually hermetically sealed and can operate without
maintenance of the SF6 circuit for the life of the switchgear. They typically contain less than
5 kg of SF6. Some medium voltage units can be of GIS construction (i.e. with jointed
compartments containing SF6).

Purchase of new equipment

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear


Bans and HFC Phase Down

There are no bans related to the use of SF6 in high voltage switchgear.

Other F-Gas end use sectors are affected by a phase down in the quantity of HFCs to be placed on the
EU market. This only applies to HFCs – it will have no impact on the SF6 switchgear market.

Product Labeling

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear


All switchgear containing SF6 shall not be placed on the market unless the SF6 is identified with a label.

The label shall indicate the following information:
1) A reference that the switchgear contains F-Gases
2) The accepted industry designation for the F-Gas concerned or, if no such designation is
available, the chemical name
3) NEW: From 1 January 2017, the quantity expressed in weight and in CO2 equivalent of F-Gas
contained in the switchgear, and the global warming potential of the F-Gas used.

Operation of existing equipment

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear


The 2014 F-Gas Regulation includes a number of requirements that affect the use and maintenance
of existing switchgear containing SF6. The rules depend on the type and size of switchgear being used.
The regulations affecting existing equipment relate to:
(a) leak prevention,
(b) record keeping and
(c)the use of certificated technicians. These requirements are described below.

Leak prevention and mandatory leak checks

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear


The intentional release of F-Gases into the atmosphere is prohibited and operators of all switchgear
systems using SF6 must take all measures that are technically and economically feasible to minimise
leakage. Where leaks are detected operators must carry out repairs without undue delay.

NEW: Under the 2006 Regulation, the legal responsibility for preventing F-Gas releases was only given
to the operator (usually the owner) of the equipment. In the 2014 Regulation there is a similar legal
responsibility given to third party contractors carrying out installation, maintenance, leak checking or
SF6 recovery on behalf of operators.

NEW: Switchgear is now included in a list of F-Gas applications requiring mandatory leak tests. The
Regulation specifies leak tests are required for switchgear containing more than 6 kg of SF6. However,
the Regulation includes 2 special derogations for switchgear. The leak checking rules do not apply if a
piece of switchgear containing more than 6 kg of SF6 complies with one of the following conditions:

a) It has a tested leakage rate of less than 0.1 % per year as set out in the technical specification
of the manufacturer and is labelled accordingly
b) It is equipped with a pressure or density monitoring device

The first derogation could apply to new hermetically sealed equipment, but not many existing systems
have the appropriate labelling. However, the size threshold excludes virtually all hermetically sealed
systems used for medium voltage switchgear as most contain less than 6 kg of SF6.

The second derogation excludes the majority of larger GIS as they are usually fitted with a pressure
monitoring device and / or a density monitoring device.

If none of the above derogations apply then the SF6 insulated switchgear must be regularly checked
for leakage. All switchgear falling outside the above derogations would require leak testing at the
frequency shown below.
Leak Testing Frequency (if switchgear derogations do not apply) SF6 quantity No automatic leak detection Automatic leak detection fitted 

6 to 22 kg Every 6 months Every 12 months
Above 22 kg Every 3 months Every 6 months

If a leak is found during a mandatory leak check it must be repaired without undue delay and the leak
test repeated within one month to ensure the repair was effective.

Mandatory automatic leak detection

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear

NEW: For new switchgear systems installed after 1st January 2017, containing 500 tonnes CO2e or more there is a mandatory requirement for an automatic leak detection system to be fitted. For systems with SF6, this means switchgear containing more than 22 kg.

An automatic leak detection system is defined as a “calibrated mechanical, electrical or electronic
device for detecting leakage of F-Gases which, on detection, alerts the operator or a service company
of any leakage”.

Automatic leak detection systems used for SF6 switchgear must be checked at least once every 6 years to ensure their proper functioning.

Record keeping

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear


NEW: Operators of SF6 switchgear must keep records for each piece of equipment that is subject to a
mandatory leak check (i.e. not exempted via the derogations listed above).

The records that must be kept include:
a) quantity and type of F-Gas installed
b) quantities of F-Gas added during installation, maintenance or when repairing a leak
c) whether the F-Gases used have been recycled or reclaimed (including the name and address
of the recycling or reclamation facility and, where applicable, the certificate number).
d) quantity of any F-Gases recovered
e) the identity of the undertaking that installed, serviced or decommissioned the equipment,
including, where applicable, their certificate number
f) dates and results of all mandatory leak checks
g) for equipment decommissioned, the measures taken to recover and dispose of the F-Gases.
Records must be kept by the plant operator for at least 5 years. Records collected by a contractor on
behalf of an operator must be kept for at least 5 years. The records shall be made available on request
to the UK Government’s competent authority (i.e. the Environment Agency) or to the Commission.

Use of certificated technicians

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear


Certain SF6 handling operations on switchgear must be carried out by suitably trained technicians
holding an F-Gas handling certificate. This specifically includes installation, servicing, maintenance,
repair or decommissioning, and generally for the recovery of SF6. 

End-of-life requirements

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear


Any switchgear containing SF6 that is being disposed of at end-of-life must undergo an SF6 recovery
process. Recovery must be carried out by a certificated technician.

All recovered F-Gases can either be:
a) sent for destruction by incineration at a licenced waste facility
b) sent to a specialist plant that can re-process the old SF6 into a fluid with properties identical
to virgin SF6, to create “reclaimed SF6”
c) given a basic cleaning process, to create “recycled SF6”.

Purchase and Supply of Bulk SF6

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear


NEW: The 2014 F-Gas Regulation places a new obligation on companies selling bulk F-Gases (e.g.
cylinders of SF6) to:

a) Ensure that they only sell F-Gases to companies that hold the correct F-Gas certification
b) For each customer, to keep records of the relevant certificate numbers and of quantities of FGases

Companies purchasing F-Gases for installation, servicing and maintenance should be aware of this
requirement. Suppliers are likely to request a “Letter of Assurance” that includes:
• Statements that confirm the purchasers understanding of the F-Gas Regulation and the
importance of minimising emissions
• An assurance that the purchaser will only use trained and certified persons to carry out ‘gas
handling’ activities where required by the Regulation
• Certification details for the employees who hold appropriate training and certification under
the F-Gas Regulation.
• If appropriate, expiry dates for personnel certificates.

Reporting of imports

EU F-Gas Regulations – High Voltage Switchgear

NEW: Any high voltage switchgear containing SF6 that is imported from outside the EU needs to be
reported to the Commission on an annual basis. The first report covers the calendar year 2014 and
must be submitted to the Commission by March 31st 2015. Reports for future calendar years must be
made by March 31st of the following year.

The SRAC industry and the world as a whole, now understand that fluorinated gases have a potentially devastating global warming effect when released into the atmosphere.

F Gas regulations have been implemented in order to contain, prevent and thereby reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases.

On 2nd April 2008, the Commission Regulation 303/2008 set out the requirements for a company certification scheme.

This scheme is specifically for businesses working with F Gas refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump equipment containing or designed to contain fluorinated greenhouse gases.

These F Gas Certification requirements are in accordance with Article 5.1 of EC Regulations 842/2006 on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases (the EC F Gas Regulation).