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Carbon Dioxide Is Not the Worst Greenhouse Gas, Meet SF6

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Channel: Seeker
Categories: Biology   |   Environmental   |   Science  
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Could a switch to renewable sources like wind and solar power actually emit more of the most potent greenhouse gas there is?
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The greenhouse gas in question is SF6, or sulfur hexafluoride.

SF6 is a colorless, odorless, cheap and non-flammable synthetic gas that is incredibly effective at insulating material for medium- and high-voltage electrical installation. Because sulfur hexafluoride displaces the air that feeds the flames, SF6 is used to help prevent short circuits and fires in high-voltage electrical switches and circuit breakers.

Over time, as we add more renewables (think: wind and solar power) to our electric grids, the need for more safety equipment grows as does the use of SF6.

But here's the thing: Sulfur hexafluoride is a fluorinated gas, which means it is part of a group of gasses with high global warming potentials. SF6 is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2), and the potent greenhouse gas has the highest global warming potential of any known substance, and by 2030, were expecting to use 75% more of it worldwide.

So does the increase in sulfur hexafluoride make all our efforts to switch to renewables for nought? What are the alternatives to SF6?

Find out that and more in this Elements.

#greenhousegas #sf6 #electricity #CO2 #seeker #elements #climate #science
Read More:
Climate change: Electrical industry's 'dirty secret' boosts warming
"Cheap and non-flammable, SF6 is a colourless, odourless, synthetic gas. It makes a hugely effective insulating material for medium and high-voltage electrical installations. It is widely used across the industry, from large power stations to wind turbines to electrical sub-stations in towns and cities. It prevents electrical accidents and fires."

Green Energy Has a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Problem, but Solutions Are Near
"To put that in perspective, one kilogram of SF6 adds the carbon equivalent of 24 people flying round trips from New York to London, as the BBC reported. For the most part, SF6 is well contained, but leaks are hard to notice, and in 2017, leaks in the European Union were equivalent to putting 1.3 million more cars on the road, as the BBC reported."

SF6 Worries The Most Potent and Persistent Greenhouse Gas
"Today, SF6 has been listed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 23,900 times greater than that of CO2 over a 100 year period."


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