Ammonia, which is mainly used for the production of fertilizers, can also be successfully used as fuel for agricultural machinery. So said American researchers and scientists associated with the company Amogy, which in May this year, confirmed his statement, introducing the John Deere 6195M tractor, upgraded to run exclusively on ammonia, the presentation was held at Stony Brook University in New York.
Why ammonia and not other fuels, and how can it be used to fuel farm equipment?
Ammonia is an inorganic chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen. It is its hydrogen content that makes it suitable for powering internal combustion engines. However, the matter is not so simple, because it requires a reactor to break down ammonia. The next step is a system to convert the hydrogen in the fuel cells into electricity. And the electricity thus obtained can power the tractor and its components.
The advantage of ammonia over hydrogen is that it is easier to transport and store. And it will be possible to use systems used, for example, to fuel tractors with liquefied gas, the Amogy researchers report.
What are the obstacles to the spread of this technology?
One obstacle to the spread of this technology is the costs associated with upgrading a tractor to run on this fuel. These include installing a reactor, fuel cells and an electric motor and transmission.
Another obstacle is that ammonia is twice as expensive per energy produced as fuels such as diesel. However, Amogy predicts that its price should equal diesel fuel by 2035 or sooner, which could be due to additional taxes on conventional fuels.
Advantages of powering John Deere tractors with ammonia
The advantage of an ammonia-powered tractor is that it produces no harmful exhaust fumes, and the only byproduct of the chemical reaction that occurs in the system is water. So with this system, according to Amogy employees, there are no problems with meeting stringent exhaust cleanliness standards.
A John Deere tractor adapted to run on ammonia generates 100 kW of power. With light work, it can run for more than six hours on a single charge. During that time, the tractor consumes about 220 liters of ammonia – that’s the capacity of the tank mounted on the tractor. Refueling takes little time, less than five minutes, while hydrogen or electric systems, which are alternatives to ammonia, require hours of refueling or recharging.
The lifespan of an ammonia-powered tractor should be on par with tractors running on conventional fuel. The longevity of the system here is limited mainly by the fuel cells on the machine, which are similar in design to those used in the automobile industry, Amogy reports.