Sep 5, 2017
New Holland unveils methane-powered tractor

New Holland Agriculture unveiled a methane-powered concept tractor Aug. 30, 2017, at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.
The tractor was developed by the design and engineering teams of New Holland Agriculture, an international agricultural equipment brand of CNH Industrial. The concept tractor “combines alternative fuels and advanced agricultural technology with readily available powertrain innovation from CNH Industrial sister brand FPT Industrial,” according to a release from New Holland.

The concept’s powertrain develops delivers a maximum power of 180 horsepower and maximum torque of 740 Newton-metres, both identical to its standard diesel counterpart, according to the release.

“So armed, a farm has the ability to become completely energy independent, satisfying all of its own fuel and energy requirements, as well as those of the local community by using waste products in a ‘closed-loop’ virtuous cycle,” according to the release. ”It is the next step in realizing the farm of the near future, one that moves away from fossil fuel powered vehicles and embraces renewable sources.”

Biomethane represents the latest phase in the New Holland’s alternative fuels strategy.

“It particularly suits on-farm use by agricultural vehicles as farmers already possess the raw materials and the space to produce the gas,” according to NewHolland’s release. “This enables agribusinesses not only to be fuel sufficient, but also energy sufficient.”

Biomethane can be produced from a mixture of specifically-grown energy crops and waste plant or food material, the latter in both liquid and solid forms. This material is either harvested from the fields or gathered at the farm from sources such as food factories, supermarkets and restaurants and canteens, and is fed into a biodigester. Here, in the absence of air, it is heated and begins to break down biologically as it is digested by bacteria, much like any compost heap. As it does so, it gives off biogas – including biomethane – in a two-stage fermentation process lasting around 60 days. This is eventually refined to produce fuel-grade biomethane, a product which can then be used to power the tractor.

The liquid and solid waste plant materials collected from the digester after gas production has ceased, known as digestate, have a high nutritional profile, and are used as fertilizer.

For farmers who do not have the resources to produce their own biomethane, the concept tractor can be powered by conventional network methane.

— A methane-powered tractor powered by methane is parked in front of biodigesters. Photo by New Holland

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