AgricultureEnvironment & ClimateFossil FuelsHydrogenRenewable energySustainability

Decarbonisation of the agriculture sector in the spotlight at the upcoming Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle event 2023.

By July 19, 2023 No Comments

Dolphin N2 have started preparing for this year’s Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle (LCV) event.

LCV is a two-day event at UTAC, Millbrook and is an opportunity for innovators and disruptors from the transport sector to gather and showcase their decarbonisation technologies. With plenty of Government recognition at the event and opportunities to network with senior transport sector representatives, LCV puts the transport sector at centre stage.

Dolphin N2 will return this year with their full size Recuperated Spilt Cycle Engine demonstrator engine sharing and showcasing the way their engine technology can support decarbonisation of the heavy-duty, off-highway and agriculture sectors.

This year’s LCV will see a greater focus on the agriculture sector and how decarbonising one of the largest CO2 emitters has its challenges and how those challenges are being met.

Following the publication of the Decarbonising UK Agriculture: Farm Vehicles and Future Fuels report (2022), the Royal Agriculture Society of England (RASE) are working with Cenex to explore how the agricultural industry is tackling decarbonisation at scale.

The RASE report summary highlights the need for a multi fuel approach to decarbonisation and how the technology itself needs adapting and modifying to meet emissions targets. The first three of five summary points recognise the future fuel requirements to enable the emissions targets to be met.

1/ Policy failure to include agriculture in the replacement pathway for red diesel is a major oversight and should be given greater priority by Government. As a fossil fuel, diesel’s time is limited and, like many other industries, agriculture has to figure out what will replace it as the primary fuel for farm vehicles in the next two decades.

2/ There are several candidates for farming’s ‘fuel of the future’: electricity, biofuels (as liquid or gas) including on-farm biomethane generation/supply and potentially hydrogen. Wider gas fuel deployment in non-farm vehicles is a priority – in addition to re-thinking farm vehicle design and considering power-to-weight requirements for farm traction.

3/ With its higher energy density, gas offers greater potential than electricity for heavy vehicles and machinery. Non-fossil gas fuels are a long-term option for non-road vehicles. To be affordable, low emission fuels should make use of existing engine technology e.g. internal combustion (ICE). This requires Government policy change to boost currently available on-farm fuel technologies such as biomethane and future solutions like hydrogen using on-farm electrolysis.  (1)

But what does this look like in reality and how are innovators meeting the challenges set by the agriculture sector? Here are a few of the innovative ideas already being developed and, in some cases, already being used in practical applications.

Dolphin N2 – HYDRATE

In August 2021 the UK Government announced a £40M Red Diesel Replacement Competition. BEIS awarded £6.7 million in grant funding across 17 projects for Phase 1, with up to £460,000 per project.

The projects covered technologies within the 3 innovation lots at technology readiness level (TRL) 4 and above:

Lot 1: Distribution, storage and energy delivery systems development

Lot 2: Development of equipment (components/sub-systems) and fleet management infrastructure (facilities for maintaining, hosting and servicing vehicles)

Lot 3: Fuel development (2)

Providing grant funding for the development and demonstration of low carbon alternatives to diesel for the construction, quarrying, agriculture and mining sectors, the UK Government competition was designed with the aim of decarbonising industries reliant on red diesel and providing a platform for alternative research and development in this area. (3)

One of the successful projects ‘HYDRATE’ was awarded to Dolphin N2:

HYDRATE – Hydrogen Recuperated Advanced Thermal Engine

Lead Partner: Dolphin N2 Limited

Partners: University of Brighton; Costain Limited

Total grant: £448,611.78

The HYDRATE project has supported the development of a Hydrogen version of the Recuperated Split Cycle Engine (RSCE), a highly innovative, fuel-agnostic thermal engine targeting heavy duty applications.

The RSCE offers very high efficiency (competitive with a PEM fuel cell), and very low emissions (SULEV with aftertreatment).

It also offers an easy route to transition to a net-zero economy, as it can use existing ICE manufacture and supply chains, and match existing ICE installation requirements, all with a moderate capital cost increase.

JCB – Hydrogen ICE

Replacement of diesel in farm and non-road vehicles has become more of a reality thanks to engineers at JCB Power Systems, UK, who have developed the first hydrogen motor in the industry.

Using and adapting established engine technology with readily available components, hydrogen is combusted, and power is delivered in exactly the same way as a diesel engine. And now, the JCB prototype backhoe loader, fitted with this new hydrogen motor, can do everything its diesel-powered equivalent can do. (4)

What’s more, the technology is far less complicated than hydrogen fuel-cell technology. Nothing but steam is emitted from the tailpipe. Zero CO2 at point of use. (4)

On a practical level, a hydrogen motor uses similar technology to existing propulsion systems. It’s also robust, cost-effective and it could be integrated into all forms of powertrain. (4)

Most importantly, a familiar technology and lack of complexity make hydrogen an ideal zero-carbon solution for our customers, with demand being met by our existing, high quality manufacturing supply chain. (4)

JCB telehandler

JCB are also developing a telehandler for on farm and other uses, more powerful than its current electric version.

JCB expect the first H2 ICE machines to be supplied to customers in 2023. Widespread adoption requires access to green hydrogen supply from surplus renewable energy generated by solar or wind power. Lord Bamford hopes that green hydrogen power will be a key part of the solution to climate change. (1)

New Holland

New Holland are a driving force when it comes to decarbonisation technologies for the agriculture sector. As far back as 2011 New Holland Agriculture launched its NH2TM Hydrogen powered tractor.

Having won the Gold Innovation Medal at SIMA 2009 for the original concept, the Hydrogen powered tractor was New Holland’s reaffirmation of its role as a Clean Energy leader, way before some of its predecessors were even considering the shift away from traditional diesel engines.

The New Holland NH2TM tractor was powered by FPT’s renowned 4.5 litre NEF Stage V 4-cylinder engine (maximum output 140 hp). The engine was fitted with FPT’s unique HI-eSCR technology and included a maintenance-free filter system in its SCR catalytic converter, making it possible to meet tighter PM emissions limits within a compact unit – the second generation HI-eSCR 2. (5)

However, since then New Holland have also become part of another innovative future fuel project their Biomethane tractor.

The New Holland T6 Methane Power was the world’s first 100% methane powered production tractor.

With comparable power output to its diesel equivalent, the T6 delivers up to 30% lower running costs. The high torque gas engine produces 99% less particulate matter, reducing CO2 emissions by circa 10% when using natural gas (CNG). Overall emissions can be reduced by 80%, if using farm supplied biomethane. Near-zero CO2 emissions would be possible if the gas comes from carbon negative biogas sites. (1)

The T6 runs on compressed biomethane (bioCNG), a ready-to-use renewable fuel that can be supplied from gas network fuelling stations and locally (off-grid) from existing or new farm biogas plants. Key challenges included tuning the engine for farm use, plus installation of compressed gas storage capacity to meet operational needs, while complying with safety and visibility requirements. (1)

CNH and Bennamann – Methane tractor

One of the most talked about presentations from the Future Propulsion conference 2023 was the session ‘The fugitive Methane Tractor and its Role in the Energy Independent Farm’.

Bennamann Ltd have developed a process which captures fugitive emissions and turns the methane into useful, sustainable, renewable energy products – compressed fugitive methane, or CFM, and liquid fugitive methane, LFM. This biomethane can replace traditional fossil fuels such as petrol, diesel, heating oil, propane gas and liquid natural gas, also known as LNG. (6)

Bennamann Ltd have been trialling this process at dairy farms moving the methane offsite for processing and then returning it as a usable fuel. However, plans are in process to find ways of processing methane on farms and enabling the direct access to the methane fuel, removing additional CO2 generated by its movement off and on site.

Since the Future Propulsion Conference, CNH Industrial have acquired a controlling stake in Bennamann, reinforcing methane’s strategic role in farming’s energy independence. (6)

Dr Chris Mann, Bennamann’s Co-founder, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer, said “CNH Industrial’s investment will help Bennamann dramatically accelerate scale-up in the deployment of our technology and realise the full potential of our integrated systems worldwide”. (6)

Written by Katy Mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2.