A Cornish company pioneering the capture, storage and use of methane gas sourced from farm slurry has seen its groundbreaking technology incorporated into the world’s first liquid methane-powered tractor.

Bennamann, based at the Aerohub Business Park near Newquay, has been researching and developing biomethane production for over a decade.

It has developed Government grant-eligible systems for sealing slurry lagoons to capture methane that would otherwise escape to the atmosphere (called ‘fugitive methane’), then treating and compressing the gas for use as fuel.

Earlier this month (Dec 9) the world’s first liquefied methane-powered tractor, built with innovative fuel tank technology developed by Bennamann, was unveiled at a global CNH Industrial Tech Day event in the USA.

The New Holland T7 Methane Power LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) tractor is a collaboration between New Holland’s parent company CNH Industrial and Bennamann, and was farm tested in Cornwall.

The pre-production prototype uses Bennamann’s patented cryogenic fuel tank which keeps the methane as a liquid at minus 162°C, producing a new source of clean power for the 270hp tractor, which packs as much power as its diesel equivalent but with significant emission savings.

And when combined with Bennamann’s on-farm biomethane capture and storage system, it can help make a farm both energy independent and better than carbon neutral.

Bennamann co-founder, Chris Mann, said: “The T7 liquid methane fuelled tractor is a genuine world-first and another step towards decarbonising the global agricultural industry and realising a circular economy.

“Methane also has more than 80 times the atmosphere warming power of carbon dioxide over 20 years, so by removing it and putting it to good use we are helping to rapidly tackle global warming. We’ve shown that harnessing the potential of biomethane can make farms energy independent and carbon neutral, and we’re thrilled to take another momentous step in our partnership with New Holland.”

A pilot project between Bennamann and Cornwall Council-owned Trenance Farm near Saltash in south wast Cornwall, where the T7 prototype tractor was put through its paces, has seen carbon dioxide emissions slashed from 2,500 tonnes to 500 tonnes in just the first year.

Such is the potential of biomethane – which is also being used to power some of Cornwall Council’s fleet of Corserv lorries thanks to Bennamann’s technology– that the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is now co-funding a study to assess the scale of fugitive methane emissions in Cornwall.

This will assess the current emissions from sites like dairy farms and waste water treatment plants, the potential for capture, and the potential scale of use for things like transport and agriculture.

Mark Duddridge, chair of the LEP, said: “Biomethane has huge potential. If we can make our agriculture industry energy-independent in the face of soaring input costs and volatile energy prices, while reducing emissions, then we can provide a huge economic boost for rural communities, greater food security, and move towards net zero. These applications are not limited to agriculture or Cornwall. They are global. What Bennamann are doing is hugely exciting.”