#Farm Machinery & Equipment
T7 LNG Key to Self-Sufficiency
New Holland's T7 Methane Tractor Is Key in System to Turn Livestock Waste Into Fuel
New Holland was recently awarded the 2023 Green Good Design Award for its prototype T7 Methane Power liquified natural gas (LNG) tractor. The first tractor in the world to run on LNG -- as opposed to compressed natural gas -- its 270-horsepower engine delivers as much power output and torque as a similarly sized diesel tractor, the manufacturer says.
The award was given by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. New Holland Agriculture is a global brand of CNH Industrial.
New Holland's prototype T7 Methane is one piece of a larger strategy to build a sustainable production system from livestock operations. In its current design, this system produces biomethane from a dairy facility. The gas is stored as fuel for the tractor, such as the T7 Methane unit, or to produce electricity and heat.
Proponents say tractors such as the T7 Methane LNG are better than carbon neutral when powered by liquified biomethane that fires the T7 Methane's 6-cylinder power unit. Biomethane emissions are 80% less than that produced by a diesel engine.
The T7 Methane tractor is one result of an effort by CNH Industrial's Clean Energy Leader Strategy, an ongoing, nearly 20-year investment in alternative fuels. CNH's recent efforts include buying a controlling stake in UK-based Bennamann, a 2011 startup focused on capturing, repurposing and storing fugitive methane emissions from structures such as covered manure lagoons.
"(The farm is a) huge untapped resource of energy," said Chris Mann, Bennamann cofounder, chairman and chief technology officer. The process is low-cost, easy to use and won't disrupt the flow of work on the farm. "We've made farms part of the solution rather than part of the problem. The farm is entirely self-contained," he said. Bennamann is processing biomethane on five farms in the United Kingdom and has an order booked for more installations.
Bennamann is helping CNH-New Holland Ag solve its chicken-and-egg puzzle. "You have the tractor, but you didn't have the methane," said Oscar Baroncelli, head of tractor and telehandler product management, New Holland Agriculture. "(Bennamann provides) a tool, a service that will help us develop a local methane infrastructure. At the same time, we think this is the best solution for sustainability."
New Holland and Bennamann together this spring won the AD (Anerobic Digestion) & Bioresources Association 'Net Zero Circular Solution Award' for Bennamann's methane capture and processing work and for New Holland's 180-horsepower T6 compressed natural gas (CNG) methane tractor.
The T6 CNG is the only methane-fueled tractor in production. The LNG-powered T7 Methane prototype is the follow-on design to the T6 Methane (the T6 will remain in production). New Holland says it will soon announce a production date for the T7 Methane.
CNH believes Bennamann's solution can "transform farms into mini energy hubs" that fill their own energy needs, produce a natural fertilizer and even sell excess gas.
Here's the process: A farmer tends pastures. Cows eat the pasture grass. Cow manure is pumped to a lagoon enclosed by two covers. Fugitive biogas is captured under the first cover and refined methane stored under the second, outer cover. Fugitive biogas is processed into liquid methane and stored in Bennamann's cryogenic storage tanks. Cryogenic tanks give LNG methane portability, like diesel.
"(Liquified biomethane offers) vastly better sustainability (in its) ability to be produced on farms," said Baroncelli. It can be stored for times when the herd is grazing and not producing manure for the lagoon.
CNH said Bennamann's process reduces CO2 emissions from a 120-cow herd approximately equal to 100 western households, or 787 tons annually. That self-production will cover 85% of the farm's energy consumption.
As a fuel source, methane does not represent new technology. But there are key differences in CNG (fueling New Holland's T6 Methane) and LNG (fueling New Holland's T7 Methane).
CNG is odorless, tasteless, and non-toxic and is an environmentally clean alternative fuel. It emits a lower percentage of greenhouse gases compared to other fossil fuels. But as a compressed gas, it has range limitations. The T6 Methane (CNG) is diesel-like in terms of performance, but because of the CNG energy density (lower than LNG), running time is four hours with standard tanks and six hours with an attached range extender.
LNG has an energy density comparable to diesel fuel. LNG becomes a liquid when it is cooled to minus 162 degrees Celsius, and in that form, is a fuel with a volume 10 times greater than that of CNG. The T7's LNG boasts a four-fold increase in fuel capacity and has more than double the autonomy of the T6 Methane (without the range extender), or eight hours of run time between refuelings.
The design of the T7 Methane fuel tank represents five patent families. Bennamann's actively temperature-controlled fuel system for the T7 Methane includes cryogenic, conformal twin tanks that maximize space and give the T7 Methane autonomy equivalent to a comparable diesel tractor. The stainless-steel cryogenic tank has a self-supported vacuum space requiring less material and reduces manufacturing energy costs. The T7's self-supporting, active temperature control provides indefinite zero methane loss. LNG stores indefinitely.
Refueling with LNG is similar to refueling a diesel tractor, although the extreme cold temperature of the fuel means operators must wear closed-toe, boots, long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, cryogenic gloves and a face mask to help prevent frostbite. Refueling can be accomplished from a fixed station or by way of Bennamann's mobile storage tank, or MST.
"We're doing something here (that is) unique, something as a pioneer, something that would be a radical change. We're building an end-to-end solution for the customer, for the tractor, for biogas production and to overall energy independent farm," said Baroncelli. "(Our) target is not just to sell more tractors, but to change the ag space."