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Home / Technical Articles / Gas-Insulated Substations – GIS

Superior Dielectric Gas

A gas-insulated substation (GIS) uses a superior dielectric gas, SF6, at moderate pressure for phase-tophase and phase-to-ground insulation. The high voltage conductors, circuit breaker interrupters, switches, current transformers, and voltage transformers are in SF6 gas inside grounded metal enclosures.

Gas-Insulated Substations - GIS
Gas-Insulated Substations – GIS

The atmospheric air insulation used in a conventional, air-insulated substation (AIS) requires meters of air insulation to do what SF6 can do in centimeters.

GIS can therefore be smaller than AIS by up to a factor of 10. A GIS is mostly used where space is expensive or not available. In a GIS the active parts are protected from the deterioration from exposure to atmospheric air, moisture, contamination, etc.

As a result, GIS is more reliable and requires less maintenance than AIS.

GIS was first developed in various countries between 1968 and 1972. After about 5 years of experience, the use rate increased to about 20% of new substations in countries where space is limited. In other countries with space easily available, the higher cost of GIS relative to AIS has limited use to special cases.

For example, in the U.S., only about 2% of new substations are GIS. International experience with GIS is described in a series of CIGRE papers (CIGRE, 1992; 1994; 1982).

The IEEE (IEEE Std. C37. 122-1993; IEEE Std C37. 122.1-1993) and the IEC (IEC, 1990) have standards covering all aspects of the design, testing, and use of GIS. For the new user, there is a CIGRE application guide (Katchinski et al., 1998). IEEE has a guide for specifications for GIS (IEEE Std. C37.123-1996).


SIEMENS Gas-Insulated Switchgear-Types 8DA10 and 8DB10 (up to 38 kV)

Sulfur hexaflouride is an inert, nontoxic, colorless, odorless, tasteless, and nonflammable gas consisting of a sulfur atom surrounded by and tightly bonded to six flourine atoms. It is about five times as dense as air. SF6 is used in GIS at pressures from 400 to 600 kPa absolute. The pressure is chosen so that the SF6 will not condense into a liquid at the lowest temperatures the equipment experiences.

SF6 has two to three times the insulating ability of air at the same pressure. SF6 is about 100 times better than air for interrupting arcs. It is the universally used interrupting medium for high voltage circuit breakers, replacing the older mediums of oil and air. SF6 decomposes in the high temperature of an electric arc, but the decomposed gas recombines back into SF6 so well that it is not necessary to replenish the SF6 in GIS.

There are some reactive decomposition byproducts formed because of the trace presence of moisture, air, and other contaminants. The quantities formed are very small. Molecular sieve absorbants inside the GIS enclosure eliminate these reactive byproducts.

SF6 is supplied in 50-kg gas cylinders in a liquid state at a pressure of about 6000 kPa for convenient storage and transport. Gas handling systems with filters, compressors, and vacuum pumps are commercially available. Best practices and the personnel safety aspects of SF6 gas handling are covered in international standards (IEC, 1995).


The SF6 in the equipment must be dry enough to avoid condensation of moisture as a liquid on the surfaces of the solid epoxy support insulators because liquid water on the surface can cause a dielectric breakdown. However, if the moisture condenses as ice, the breakdown voltage is not affected. So dew points in the gas in the equipment need to be below about –10°C. For additional margin, levels of less than 1000 ppmv of moisture are usually specified and easy to obtain with careful gas handling. Absorbants inside the GIS enclosure help keep the moisture level in the gas low, even though over time, moisture will evolve from the internal surfaces and out of the solid dielectric materials (IEEE Std. 1125-1993).

Small conducting particles of mm size significantly reduce the dielectric strength of SF6 gas. This effect becomes greater as the pressure is raised past about 600 kPa absolute (Cookson and Farish, 1973). The particles are moved by the electric field, possibly to the higher field regions inside the equipment or deposited along the surface of the solid epoxy support insulators, leading to dielectric breakdown at operating voltage levels. Cleanliness in assembly is therefore very important for GIS.

Fortunately, during the factory and field power frequency high voltage tests, contaminating particles can be detected as they move and cause small electric discharges (partial discharge) and acoustic signals, so they can be removed by opening the equipment. Some GIS equipment is provided with internal “particle traps” that capture the particles before they move to a location where they might cause breakdown. Most GIS assemblies are of a shape that provides some “natural” low electric field regions where particles can rest without causing problems.

Global Warming

SF6 is a strong greenhouse gas that could contribute to global warming. At an international treaty conference in Kyoto in 1997, SF6 was listed as one of the six greenhouse gases whose emissions should be reduced. SF6 is a very minor contributor to the total amount of greenhouse gases due to human activity, but it has a very long life in the atmosphere (half-life is estimated at 3200 years), so the effect of SF6 released to the atmosphere is effectively cumulative and permanent.

The major use of SF6 is in electrical power equipment.

Fortunately, in GIS the SF6 is contained and can be recycled. By following the present international guidelines for use of SF6 in electrical equipment (Mauthe et al., 1997), the contribution of SF6 to global warming can be kept to less than 0.1% over a 100-year horizon.

The emission rate from use in electrical equipment has been reduced over the last three years. Most of this effect has been due to simply adopting better handling and recycling practices. Standards now require GIS to leak less than 1% per year. The leakage rate is normally much lower. Field checks of GIS in service for many years indicate that the leak rate objective can be as low as 0.1% per year when GIS standards are revised.

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More Information

Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. Yashu
    Feb 28, 2023

    How to clean GIS modules.

    Aug 30, 2020

    A tender (competitive BID) has been called by a goverment enterprise under Ministry of Power & Energy of Bangladesh for “Construction of new 230/33kV GIS Substation with associated Transmission lines near Dhaka in Bangladesh”

    As we informed that you (EEP) is a potential PROVIDER/ manufacturer of GIS substation. If you can provide the equipments we may have to engaged a EPC company to design and execute the installation works. We also have to assess that you have the technical, financial and contract management authority th participate in a internationsl tender. We hope you should have going to use your potential and capability.

    So, you are requested to participate in the mentioned tender. We will play the role of LOCAL AGENT. We shall try to provide all sorts of help to be needed in Bangladesh for execution of the work.

  3. Sharfuddin
    Mar 26, 2019

    Nice Articles with importent Information

  4. S Chatterjee
    Dec 31, 2018

    Nice article with good information.

    Mar 02, 2018

    thank you so much for providing this information

    Mar 29, 2016

    can I got all details procedure of 132 kv gis installation.

  7. Paulo Barbosa
    Oct 15, 2015

    I need to have an idea of estimated value of a SF6 Gas Insulated Substation. Where can I see this?

  8. sreeni
    Oct 10, 2015


  9. Shabu Moothedan
    Apr 10, 2015

    We have recently installed a 145kV 40kA 3 bay OUTDOOR GIS as per the instruction of GIS manufacturer. After two years of energisation of this GIS, there was a gas leakage detected on the joints of GIS sections. After detailed inspection, it was found that there is corrosion at flange surface of Aluminum body and suspects this corrosion is due to insufficient water-proof works during installation. The GIS sections were joined by applying water-proofing sealant (liquid silicon) on the faces of flanges of each section. Now this Gas leak raises the question about the design of GIS for joining with applying liquid silicon to make it waterproof (considering it is an outdoor unit). We are investigating that whether this leakage is due to this type of design (joining outdoor GIS sections with applying liquid silicon to make it waterproof) or due to the workmanship (that is enough liquid silicon is not applied on the faces of flanges). Can anyone provide their thoughts, experiences and design requirements of outdoor type GIS units to make it waterproof?

    • mitalkumar
      Jun 20, 2017

      liquid silicon is more susceptible to moisture and temperature it has fast degradation compare to epoxy resin. try using pure epoxy or epoxy with nano filled solvent. I think it will give more lifetime. one more reason to use epoxy based solvent is, it has very low degradation in presence of SF6.

  10. Altaf Ahmed Nizamani
    Nov 09, 2014

    A very informative article

  11. saad1966
    Aug 06, 2012

    thanks so much

  12. sivaraja
    Nov 18, 2010

    was a good information which can be use in my daily work

  13. Edvard
    Nov 10, 2010

    Regarding medium voltage switchgears, both GIS and AIS are very close with price. Each one has its recommended application you should stick to.

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