Hydrogen-fuelled tractor enthusiasm grows on Aberdeenshire farm

Retrofitting two tractors and a farm jeep with a hydrogen electrolyser has seen farmer David Barron of Nether Aden in Aberdeenshire, Chairman of the Scottish Beef Association, saving 20% on his fuel costs.

 

  • Farmer David Barron has retrofitted two tractors and a farm jeep with a hydrogen electrolyser, saving him 20% on his fuel costs
  • In monetary terms, the savings for Mr. Barron’s telehandler – the first machine to be converted – equate to 1,083 litres of fuel, equivalent to 43,440kg of CO2 and £596 annually
  • It was installed by a small business called Water Fuel Engineering from South Yorkshire, who suggest a reduction in fossil fuels of circa 20-25% and an 80% cut in vehicle emissions
  • A RISS group of six Aberdeenshire farmers are now exploring further applications of the technology on farm

What started as a cursory interest in adapting practices on David Barron's 203-hectare, 130-cow suckler beef and arable farm to reduce the farm’s carbon footprint has resulted in the adoption of these new farming technologies.

The first electrolyser, marketed as HydroGen, was fitted as part of the Farming for a Better Climate project coordinated by SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), in partnership with the Scottish Government. The Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS) then brought together six Aberdeenshire farmers to explore further applications of the technology on farm, including how to use surplus energy from farm wind turbines.

Saving costs and CO2 emissions

“The two biggest bills on my farm are fuel and fertiliser, and both can be tackled by hydrogen,” Mr. Barron explains. “My first hydrogen converter was bought by the Scottish Government as part of the Farming for a Better Climate project, it cost £6,000."


Picture: Farmer David Barron

“I’m totally sold on the technology, the unit has worked so well, and now that the price has come down to £1,000 each, so I’ve paid to have two more installed – one on another tractor and one in my jeep.” 

In monetary terms, the savings for David Barron’s telehandler – the first machine to be converted – equate to 1,083 litres of fuel, equivalent to 43,440kg of CO2 and £596 annually, worth £2,980 over a five-year period. These calculations were made using SAC Consulting’s Agrecalc carbon measurement tool. 

In addition to the 20% fuel saving for the three vehicles, Mr. Barron has also seen other benefits. “There’s certainly more torque when you drive the tractors in a higher gear, which is very like driving a superior horsepower vehicle, and added to this, there are no emissions – there’s just nothing coming out of the lum.” 

How does the technology work?

About the size of a small suitcase, the hydrogen converter box contains a reservoir of water and an electrolyser which splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen by passing an electrical current through the tank.


Picture: The hydrogen converter box

The resulting oxyhydrogen is injected into the conventional diesel engine at a rate of approximately 6%. It was installed by a small business called Water Fuel Engineering from South Yorkshire, who suggest a reduction in fossil fuels of circa 20-25% and an 80% cut in vehicle emissions. 

“The technology won an award at the Highland Show last year, chosen by local MP David Duguid,” Mr. Barron adds, suggesting that he’d like the next stage to be doing away with diesel completely.

The manufacturers claim the other benefits as a ‘better burn’ of fuel, which leads to a cleaner engine, meaning that diesel particulate filters need to be replaced less frequently. 

Benefits for livestock farmers

Commenting on the wider findings from the Farming for a Better Climate project on David Barron’s farm, local coordinator, Alan Bruce from SAC Consulting said: “David’s passion is his livestock, so as part of the project, we looked at some other ways to improve the farm’s carbon footprint, including making better use of inputs like muck and fertiliser, for example.

“Taking account of the nutrient content of the muck combined with soil nutrient test results delivered extra yield from grass, which allowed David to increase cow numbers by 30 from the same inputs and land area.

“The combination of the hydrogen converter and the efficiency gains for the livestock enterprise demonstrate what can be achieved to positive address climate change with relatively small changes to farm practice.” 

> What are other RISS groups working on? 

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