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Research project announced to help curb the release of world’s “most potent greenhouse gas”

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The University of Aberdeen HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) research centre has joined a European network to address the technology gap needed to curb the release of the world’s “most potent greenhouse gas”. 

A synthetic, odourless gas, Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) is used to keep grid networks running safely and reliably, accounting for around 80% of its global use. 

Historically it was used in a variety of applications, from metal smelting to filling double-glazing panels, today it is still used in the electricity industry to insulate live electrical parts and in circuit breakers to switch the flow of electrical current on and off. Renewable technology also uses the gas – for example, switchgear for wind turbines use it to prevent overloads. Leaks can occur when handling the gas or as a result of defective seals in the installations where the gas is used.

Professor Dragan Jovcic from Aberdeen HVDC research will bring his High Voltage DC (Direct Current) switchgear expertise, Professor Dragan Jovcic will bring his High Voltage DC (Direct Current) switchgear expertise to a major new Horizon Europe project seeking to reduce the release of a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25,000 times higher than CO2. He will join other partners from nine countries in an EU project MISSION, an Innovation Action co-funded by the European Union through Horizon Europe and the UKRI Horizon Europe Guarantee fund, to develop and demonstrate three new SF6-free switchgear components. One of these demonstrators is Medium Voltage DC (Direct Current) Circuit Breaker, which will be developed to commercial product with crucial research input from Aberdeen HVDC research centre.

They will work alongside leading industry players including switchgear manufacturers, grid operators, DC system developers and research institutes to demonstrate the use of technology in extreme climates and to explore reliability and cost-effectiveness.

Professor Dragan Jovcic, Chair in Engineering, University of Aberdeen
Professor Dragan Jovcic, Chair in Engineering, University of Aberdeen

Professor Jovcic, said:

“Modernisation of electrical grid infrastructure will be crucial in our transition to clean energy. Electrification lies at the heart of decarbonisation and we will need expanded electrical networks to meet growing electricity demand from industry, transport and buildings.

“But this brings other significant challenges, including how to eliminate the use of SF6 and address critical technology gaps like development of new components for DC grids.

“DC (direct current) electrical systems have not been much utilised since AC (alternating current) system have been preferred with traditional overland power transmission and conventional electricity generation. However, AC power can only be transmitted over relatively short distances with subsea cables, and as we look increasingly to offshore wind or tidal technology to meet growing demand, solutions are needed to create high-voltage direct current (HVDC) connections and to eventually develop an HVDC grid.

“Our research at the University of Aberdeen has played an important role in the advancement of this technology and we are delighted to be part of the European MISSION project which seeks to enable emission-free energy transmission in a resilient and sustainable AC and DC electrical grids. This technology may play significant role in future Scottish energy systems, as we work on developing electrical SF6-free infrastructure for integration of Scotwind and many other large offshore wind energy projects.”

Atle Pedersen, the leader of the new EU project and research manager at SINTEF Energy, said:

“There is a technology gap here that requires attention, and it’s fortunate that we’ve secured funding for research in this area.

“To achieve the widespread electrification necessary for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, we must enhance our systems to efficiently connect and transfer more renewable energy into the power grid, particularly from offshore wind sources.”

More information on the greenhouse gas SF6 can be found here, with more information on the MISSION consortium available here

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