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Workshop on Chapter-1

Properties and Handling of Sulphur

Hexafluoride (SF6) Gas
Presented by:

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Presentation Outline
1. History of SF6 Gas
2. Physical Properties of SF6 Gas
3. Chemical Properties of SF6 Gas
4. Heat Transfer Properties of SF6 Gas
5. Electrical Properties of SF6 Gas
6. Handling of SF6 Gas
7. Filling with SF6 Gas

8. Safety Measures

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History of SF6 Gas

In 1900 Moissan & Lehman synthesized hex halide derivative of sulphur

by burning sulphur in an atmosphere of fluorine.

Cooper suggested the use of this material as a dielectric gas in electrical

power equipment in the year 1940.

During World War II the sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) has been used as a

dielectric gas in Van-de-Graff generators.

This has ultimately resulted in its use in electrical tower equipment such as

switchgear, transformers, cables and other special purpose machines.

Because of its remark high dielectric strength and other physical properties,

which are conducive to its use in electrical apparatus, SF6 has been
subjected to detailed engineering investigations during the last two
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Properties SF6 Gas

SF6 is a nontoxic, nonflammable and is characterized by a superior cooling

It has exceptional arc-quenching property.
Its used in electrical equipment eliminates fire hazards, allows considerable

reduction in size and improves the reliability of the system.

SF6 possess the following disadvantages.
Its decomposition under electrical discharges forming lower fluorides of

sulphur. These products are toxic and corrosive to many insulating and
conducting materials.

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Physical Properties SF6 Gas

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Comparison of SF6 with CO2

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Comparison with other insulating gases

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Chemical Properties of SF6

Sulphur hexafluoride is a stable gas .
This is largely due to the presence of both fluorine and sulphur in the

It possesses a high degree of chemical stabi1ity at atmospheric pressure
and at temperatures up to at least 500 degree Celsius.
At temperatures above 500 C, SF6 will react rapidly with the silicate
glasses and with certain metals.
The gas is generally accepted to be inert to the more common metals used
in electrical equipment such as copper, steel and aluminum with in the
usual temperature range of the operation of electrical equipment.
Tests have indicated. negligible corrosion for various metals is when
exposed to SF6 at 223C for 270 days.

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Chemical Properties of SF6

The metals tested at 223 C are listed below in the order of their increasing

susceptibility to the attack by SF6.

(a) silver (b) Aluminum (C) Stainless steel (d) Copper (e) Brass
(f) Mild steel (g) Silicon steel
For copper the threshold danger for thermal decomposition is found to be
lie in the range of 600 C.
However, from the engineering standpoint, the major point which appears
to be well established to date is that SF6 is stable within the range of at
least class A insulation temperatures (105 C maximum)SF6 is non-ignitable
and non-flammable. The gas is self-healing after electrical breakdown and
no conducting decomposition products such as amorphous carbon are
deposited as a result of continuous arcing.

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Variation of Density with Temperature

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Heat Transfer Properties of SF6

The heat transfer properties essentially consist of the specific heat of the

gas, thermal conductivity and the viscosity.

In general, SF6 has good heat transfer characteristics.
Even though SF6 possesses no practical advantages over air or nitrogen in
its thermal conductivity comparing the thermal conductivities as above is

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Heat Transfer Properties of SF6

The comparative values of viscosity of SF6 and other gases at room

temperature are given below:

nitrogen 178 x l0-6 poise
air 172 xl0-6 -6 poise
SF6 161 xl0-6 poise
From the general thermal characteristics of SF6 gas, it would be expected
that with the establishment of a thermal gradient in the gas, its lower
viscosity coupled with its greater density would lead to more extensive gas
circulation than would be obtained with nitrogen or air under the same
thermal conditions in commercial gas filled equipment.
The result would be a cooler temperature of operation in SF6 gas filled
equipment, as compared to similar equipment filled with air or nitrogen.
This has been experimentally found to be true.

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Heat Transfer Properties of SF6

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Toxicity of SF6
SF6 is a non-toxic gas. Like nitrogen its danger to life occurs only through

the hazard of suffocation.

This is caused by the displacement of oxygen under conditions where

pockets of the SF6 gas may form due to its density which is substantially
greater than air.
The toxic properties involved in the use of SF6 are mainly those presented

by the presence of the lower fluorides much as SF2 S2 F2, S12 F10 , SF8
and HF.
These may be present as impurities because of improper manufacturing

precautions or as decomposition products formed under an electric arc.

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Electrical Properties of SF6

Dielectric Strength:
SF6 has good dielectric strength because of the electron attachment

property of SF molecules.
In this process, free electrons collide the neutral gas molecules to form
negative ions by the following processes.

The process represented by the former equation starts at electron energies

of 0.1 ev with an energy range of 0.05 eV and the process represented by

the latter equation attains a maximum at 0.1 eV.
The negative ions formed are heavy compared to the free electrons and
therefore under a given electric field the ions do not accumulate sufficient
energy to lead to cumulative ionization in the gas.
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Electrical Properties of SF6

The dielectric strengths of SF6, nitrogen and transformer oil are shown in

Fig below.

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Corona Inception Voltage SF6

Corona onset voltage for SF6 in a non-uniform electric field is also

considerably higher than that for air.

The variation of the corona onset voltages for SF6 as a function of the gas
pressure and the radius of curvature the point in a point plane electrode
system are shown in Fig below.

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Dielectric Constant of SF6

SF6 being non-polar (i.e. dipole moment is zero) , its dielectric constant is

independent of the frequency of the applied voltage.

Further, over a pressure range of 0 to 22 bar, the dielectric constant
changes only by about 7% as can be seen from Fig.

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Loss Tangent & Arc Interrupting Capacity of SF6

The loss tangent, was found to increase from 2 x 10 -7 at 1 bar to 4 x 10-7

at 21 bar.
SF6 not only possesses a high dielectric strength, but also, its molecu1es
when dissociated due to spark overs, recombine rapidly after the source
energizing the spark is removed and the gas recovers its strength.
SF6 is approximately 100 times as effective as air in quenching arcs.

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Handling of SF6
SF6 gas is generally filled in cylinders at pressures ranging between 20 to 30

bars in the liquid form.

Such cylinders are to be stored out of direct sunlight in places free from
explosive or flammable materials.
The gas may be withdrawn from the cylinder in either the gaseous or liquid
When the cylinder is in up right position, SF6 will issue out as a gas.
When the cylinder is inverted, it will discharge as a liquid.
It is generally preferred to withdraw SF6 in the liquid form while filling the
equipment, since it requires less time to empty a cylinder.
However, the SF6 liquid should be vaporized the before gas enters the
equipment, otherwise, the equipment may be over pressurized. The gas
should be preferably taken through stainless steel pipes.

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Filling with SF6 Gas

Two important aspects of the filling operation are the determination of the

relative filling pressure and the weight of the gas.

It is a well known fact that the pressure changes in proportion with
temperature. Under these conditions, the electrical characteristic Of the
switchgear containing the gas will not significantly change, since the gas
density remains constant.
Owing to the difficulty in measuring gas density during filling, it is generally
sufficient if the pressure and temperature are accurately determined during
the filling operation.
Megas pressure can be measured by means of a standard pressure gauge.
This measures the gas pressure taking the atmospheric pressure as a

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Filling with SF6 Gas

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Correction Factor

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Filling Weight of SF6 Gas

To determine the weight of SF6 required to fill a unit of known free volume

at a given temperature, say 20 oC, the following procedure can be adopted:

1. First the minimum operating temperature (say 100C) . should be
2. The pressure required to obtain the desired breakdown voltage (say 650
kV) from the experimental data should be selected.
Let the required pressure be 3.5 bars. Next, Fig 1.5 should be referred to and
the following procedure should adopted:
(a) The point of intersection of 100C on the abscissa and 3.5 bars on the
ordinate should be located. This point falls between two isochors (lines of
constant density
(b) A line through this point and a point on the ordinate at the right hand side
of the graph should be drawn (called the construction line) .The latter point
should be proportionately at the same distance better adjoining isochors as
the former point.

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Filling Weight of SF6 Gas

(c) The constant density corresponding to this point should be noted. This is

the density in kg/litre for the desired condition.

(d) The next step will be to drop a perpendicular from the construction line

to the 20 oC on the absciss ).

(e) Then a perpendicular is drawn from the point where the first

perpendicular intersects the construction line to the left ordinate. The point
where this perpendicular intersects the left ordinate gives the pressure in bar
required for a given set a conditions at room temperature (20oC).
3- (The required weight of SF6 is then obtained by multiplying the free

volume of the equipment by the density obtained in section (c) above.

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Safety Measures
If a unit is known to be or is suspected to be leaking SF6 gas which might

contain the decomposition products, the following procedure should be

followed for the purpose of safety:
1. All personnel should be evacuated from the area.
2. Good ventilation should be provided in the area.
3. The contaminated SF6 should be removed through pipes vented to outside
atmosphere, or
4. The gas should be removed by pumping through absorbents and stored in

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