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GE and Hitachi ABB Power Grids sign landmark agreement to reduce environmental impact in the electrical transmission industry

Paris, FRANCE, and Zurich, SWITZERLAND, April 21, 2021 – GE Renewable Energy’s Grid Solutions business (NYSE: GE) and Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd. announced today a non-exclusive, cross-licensing agreement related to the use of an alternative gas to sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) used in high voltage equipment. This fluoronitrile-based gas mixture has a significantly reduced impact on the environment compared to SF6.

Under this landmark agreement announced just before Earth Day 2021 between two global leaders in power technologies – both companies will share complementary intellectual property related to their respective SF6-free solutions. This will help accelerate the use of fluoronitrile-based eco-efficient insulation and switching gas in high-voltage equipment as an alternative to SF6. A recent EU Commission report concluded that fluorinitrile-based gas mixtures may be the only insulating and switching gas alternative to SF6 when space is a constraint.

Today’s historic agreement paves the way for a standard SF6-free solution for high-voltage equipment in the coming years. This would enable utilities and industries to accelerate their reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, while facilitating their ability to plan, as well as operate and maintain their networks thanks to standardized services and the use of the same auxiliary equipment.

For almost half a century, SF6 gas has been the norm in the electrical power transmission and distribution industry due to its unique physical properties. It is, however a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming if leaked. For this reason, GE and Hitachi ABB Power Grids have been investing in the development of better alternatives to SF6.

“Utilities are becoming increasingly aware of their environmental footprint and the impact it has on their communities and the world around them. Today’s landmark agreement reinforces our commitment to help our customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” said Heiner Markhoff, CEO of GE’s Grid Solutions. “GE pioneered this fluoronitrile-based gas which we named g3 and subsequently developed a broad SF6-free product range. Our g3 SF6-free products have been commercially available since 2015 and feature the same compactness and performance as traditional SF6 equipment,” he added.

“As part of our commitment towards a carbon-neutral future and accelerating the energy transition, we  have chosen to work towards a standard solution to address the needs of our customers through this cross-licensing agreement,” said Markus Heimbach, Managing Director of the High Voltage Products business in Hitachi ABB Power Grids. “As a technology leader, we have always been at the frontier of gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) that became a key enabler for urbanization and installed the very first SF6-free GIS that significantly reduces carbon footprint,” he added. 

The two companies will keep the product development, manufacturing, sales, marketing and service activities of their gas solutions fully independent. Each company will continue to independently grant and set terms of licenses to its respective intellectual property, hence preserving supplier base diversity for the industry and fair competition.

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About GE’s g3

GE’s alternative to SF6 is g3 insulating and switching gas representing the culmination of a decade of research and development by its teams in France, Germany and Switzerland in collaboration with 3M Company. The g3 gas mixture is based on carbon dioxide, oxygen, and 3M™ Novec™ 4710 Dielectric Fluid from the 3M fluoronitrile family. Fluoronitrile was identified by R&D experts as the most suitable additive to CO2 and O2 to reach the targeted environmental benefit of an alternative to SF, without compromising the equipment’s technical performance and footprint. As a result, the global warming potential (GWP) of GE’s g3 gas is more than 99% lower as compared to SF6. In terms of technical performance, g3 high voltage equipment offers not only the same performance as SF6 products, it also features the same dimensional footprint as compared to SF6 equipment and operates in the same ambient conditions (down to -30°C).

GE’s g3 gas-insulated products are available now for live-tank circuit-breakers and gas-insulated substations (GIS) up to 145 kV as well as gas-insulated lines (GIL) up to 420 kV. A g3 420 kV gas-insulated substation circuit-breaker is under development with financial support from the EU as part of its LIFE Programme. Today, 23 leading electrical utilities have already adopted GE’s g3 gas-insulated equipment for their high voltage networks, avoiding the addition of more than a million tons of CO₂ equivalent to the grid. That’s the equivalent of removing about 476,000 petrol cars from the road for one year.

More about g3 - SF6 Free Solutions (gegridsolutions.com)
More about g3 development, GE’s fluoronitrile based gas mixture: In search of an SF6 replacement | Think Grid (think-grid.org)