MIT Study: Gas 24,000x More Powerful Than CO2 Being Released From Power Grid
15 March 2024, Brandenburg, Neuenhagen: An employee of grid operator 50Hertz stands on the site of the Neuenhagen substation and points to a high-voltage pylon of the new Nordring Berlin power line. With the Nordring Berlin, 50Hertz is providing another important building block for supplying the greater Berlin and Brandenburg area with renewable energy, thereby strengthening it as an attractive business location. It also strengthens the security of supply in the greater area of the capital and the important grid connection of the steelworks in Hennigsdorf, Brandenburg. A total of 204 pylons were erected and 1800 kilometers of conductor cables stretched along the 75-kilometer route. The investment amounts to around 193 million euros.
Patrick Pleul / picture alliance via Getty Images

Sulfur hexafluoride, a gas 24,300 times more potent at creating the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide, is being released into the atmosphere at an alarming rate as China seeks to expand its electric power grid.

The findings were from a new study conducted by researchers at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, Fudan University, Peking University, University of Bristol, and Meteorological Observation Center of China Meteorological Administration.

“Greenhouse gases differ widely in their global warming potential (GWP), or ability to absorb radiative energy and thereby warm the Earth’s surface,” MIT said. “For example, measured over a 100-year period, the GWP of methane is about 28 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2), and the GWP of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is 24,300 times that of CO2.”

Sulfur hexafluoride, SF6, is used “primarily in high-voltage electrical switchgear in electric power grids,” the report said, adding that atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas have skyrocketed as the global demand for electric power increases.

The report said that the increase in SF6 in the atmosphere, which communist China is largely responsible for, threatens the world’s efforts to combat so-called “climate change.”

“The researchers found that SF6 emissions in China almost doubled from 2.6 gigagrams (Gg) per year in 2011, when they accounted for 34 percent of global SF6 emissions, to 5.1 Gg per year in 2021, when they accounted for 57 percent of global total SF6 emissions,” the report said. “This increase from China over the 10-year period — some of it emerging from the country’s less-populated western regions — was larger than the global total SF6 emissions rise, highlighting the importance of lowering SF6 emissions from China in the future.”

SF6 gasses that escape in the atmosphere last for more than a thousand years and with a negative impact 24,300 times greater than CO2, the stakes could not be higher as officials seek to force consumers to abandon gas powered vehicles and switch to electric vehicles which requires having a robust power grid.

“Any increase in SF6 emissions this century will effectively alter our planet’s radiative budget — the balance between incoming energy from the sun and outgoing energy from the Earth — far beyond the multi-decadal time frame of current climate policies,” says MIT Joint Program and CGCS Director Ronald Prinn, a coauthor of the study. “So it’s imperative that China and all other nations take immediate action to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, their SF6 emissions.”

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