ABB to deploy emissions-reducing circuit breaker in US

ABB on Aug. 27 said it had developed a high voltage circuit breaker that reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 18% by replacing sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) with CO2.

The company plans to deploy the technology in the United States. The technology is on display at the Cigre technical exhibition in Paris Aug. 27-31.

“Absolutely, ABB will certainly deploy these in the U.S.,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email to TransmissionHub. “ABB has a large market of live tank breakers in the U.S. already, and this will undoubtedly prove to be popular in the U.S. market.”

The breakers will be produced and distributed through ABB’s high voltage products headquarters and facility, in Mt. Pleasant, Penn., he said.

SF6 is a toxic gas commonly used for insulation and for fighting potential arc flashes, the spokesperson said. It has higher global warming potential (GWP) than CO2, the company said in a statement.

“By substituting it with CO2 as the insulating and arc extinguishing medium, each new 72.5-kV LTA breaker has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 10 tons through the product life cycle – which is 18% less than its predecessor,” the company said.

The LTA circuit breaker technology is based on the same principles and components as its SF6-based predecessor, ABB said. The new circuit breaker will be offered as a conventional circuit breaker and as a disconnecting circuit breaker (DCB).

“SF-6 is an extremely effective, and cost-effective, insulation material common with high voltage breakers, but it’s dangerous and very bad for the environment if/when there’s a leak, which is another common industry issue we’re helping to combat,” the spokesperson said.

Until this technology was developed, ABB had relied on a condition-based monitoring solution designed to monitor and detect SF-6 gas leakages for utilities with circuit breakers filled with SF6 gases.

“SF6 gas is used in for dielectric insulation and current interruption. Pressurized SF6 gas has a higher dielectric strength than other insulation media, making it possible to significantly reduce product footprint and enable installation in constrained spaces,” the company said. “However its lifecycle management is a challenge for utility and industrial users and the cost of handling it in a compliant manner can also be substantial, particularly when decommissioning aging substations.”

About Rosy Lum 525 Articles
Rosy Lum, Analyst for TransmissionHub, has been covering the U.S. energy industry since 2007. She began her career in energy journalism at SNL Financial, for which she established a New York news desk. She covered topics ranging from energy finance and renewable policies and incentives, to master limited partnerships and ETFs. Thereafter, she honed her energy and utility focus at the Financial Times' dealReporter, where she covered and broke oil and gas and utility mergers and acquisitions.