'Virtuous cycle' – Biomethane concept tractor unveiled

As part of a vision for a sustainable farming future, a concept tractor powered by biomethane has been unveiled.

New Holland Agriculture’s new biomethane powered concept tractor is a reimagining of traditional tractor design. According to the company, it’s inspired by the belief that farmers could lead the move away from fossil fuel powered vehicles towards renewable sources, using a ‘closed-loop’ virtuous cycle that powers tractors using energy produced from their own land and waste products.


Technical details

The tractor’s fuel is stored within tanks produced using a composite layered tubular structure within a sleek and integrated storage structure fitted at the front of the tractor, as well tanks on either side of the machine.

Significantly, New Holland Agriculture claims that the new tractor is as easy to refuel as one powered with conventional diesel, needing just a single nozzle and having a comparable filling time.

Due to the reduction in polluting emissions that comes with the tractor’s methane combustion, a simplified after treatment system is used featuring a maintenance free single standard catalytic converter.

The new concept tractor is apparently capable of completing all the tasks that a standard diesel powered equivalent could, from high speed field work to ploughing or loading animal grain.

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 fed into a biodigester, where it is broken down by bacteria in a process known as anaerobic digestion (AD).

As the biomass and waste breaks down, biogas is released 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 concept tractor.

Liquid and solid waste from the anaerobic digestion process, known as digestate, have a high nutritional value and can be used as fertiliser. 

This article was written by Daryl Worthington, assistant editor of Bioenergy Insight

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