Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Organic food producer AUGA revealed the world's first hybrid (biomethane/electric) farm tractor at the end of September 2021. The Lithuanian company considers this one of the first steps towards a zero-carbon food supply chain.
“We are ready to provide consumers around the world with food at no cost to nature. By eating such food, people themselves will make a positive impact on climate change daily. And we are sure that more and more people want to live like this,” says Kęstutis Juščius, CEO of AUGA group.
AUGA claims the hybrid tractor can replace a similar 400 horsepower diesel machine and can run for up to 12 hours straight. The sustained operation is a necessity for AUGA, which has ruled out conventional gas-powered tractors whose cylinder size only allows for operation for 2-4 hours at a time. The AUGA M1 tractor uses patented technology which allows for larger cylinder sizes, as well as the optimal usage of gas and electric power.
Agriculture is responsible for nearly 25% of all GHG emissions, and AUGA suggested that 30% of their emissions come from fossil fuel usage on farms. The use of biomethane as a renewable technology is no mere coincidence - AUGA manages more than 96 000 acres of organic farming including crops and livestock. The waste and residue from their activities serve as feedstock for biomethane production.
Strictly speaking, the AUGA tractor is a natural gas/electric hybrid, given that natural gas and biomethane are chemically equivalent.
The usage of biogas and biomethane, as previously mentioned has a synergistic fit with agricultural activities. The following figures were obtained from EUROSTAT, and detail the extent of biogas/biomethane usage within the agricultural and forestry sectors in the EU.
Energy usage in the agricultural and forestry sectors over the last five years in the EU-27 has averaged over 300 TWh. Natural gas and biogas (including biomethane) usage amounted to approximately 17% of this.
The balance between natural gas (the most logical target fuel for biomethane as a green replacement) and biogases is approximately an 80:20 split.
Germany leads all EU-27 nations by far in biogas consumption in the agriculture and forestry sectors, accounting for almost two-thirds of all such sectoral biogas consumption in 2019. The top five nations accounted for more than 90% of all biogas usage.
For AUGA's purposes, given that the biomethane is produced and used on their premises the use of green gas GOs for tracking seems unnecessary. Furthermore, Lithuania does not have an operating gas GO register (although TSO Ambergrid recently suggested they are heading in this direction). However, a GO tracking system in addition to grid connection would allow biomethane to be effectively sourced and sold elsewhere, in times of production deficits and surplus respectively.