In 2005, when the manager of Penn State’s College of Ag Science farm was involved in a renewable energy exhibit at the PA Farm Show, Lyman Dellinger, New Holland Regional Service Manager, approached him with an idea: Would Penn State be willing to partner with New Holland to test B100 on their research farm?
“Lyman arranged for a small tractor to be delivered to Penn State to run on 100% biodiesel to see what the effects might be,” says Glen Cauffman, Penn State’s manager of farms and facilities.
The first tractor to be tested, a TC40, soon led to a second test tractor, a TS125, and now a third tractor, a T7040. Each runs on 100% biodiesel with no engine modifications.
A farmer’s perspective
Cauffman’s interest in biodiesel was two-fold: first, biodiesel use supports the agriculture industry, and second, it supports the environment.
“I’m a farmer as well as an administrator of the farm at Penn State,” says Cauffman. “My friends are farmers; I’m part of the College of Agriculture and I’m an alumnus of the Penn State College of Agriculture, so supporting and promoting the industry of agriculture is important to me as well as to Penn State. In recent years, agriculture has been somewhat depressed and struggling, but with the current national and worldwide interest in renewable energy, agriculture can be a contributor to fuel independence and improving the environment. Agriculture is important.”
The B20 test
Penn State’s College of Agriculture biodiesel initiative began in earnest in 2003, when they began using B20 biodiesel.
“At that time, the major manufacturers of equipment discouraged the use of biodiesel and said that if you use biodiesel greater than 5%, we will void the warranty on the engine,” Cauffman recalls.
“We decided if there were going to be problems, we’d see what they were. We took that risk on the fleet of about 40 tractors and trucks on the research farm. Right from the start, we used B20.”
After four years of testing did not reveal any problems, the university’s entire fleet of more than 200 tractors and other diesel equipment switched to B20 in 2006.
Put to the test on the farm
The New Holland tractors are being tested in real-life applications on Penn State’s 1,500-acre research farm, where feed is produced for the College of Ag’s beef, dairy and swine herds. Cauffman and his staffers use the tractors just as a typical farmer would: to spread manure; cut, rake and bale hay; and mow with a batwing rotary cutter. One tractor is equipped with a front-end loader to load manure and move fertilizer. All three tractors run on B100.
“We expected there may be some increased need to change filters, but there wasn’t. We changed filters at the same routine maintenance intervals that were outlined in the owner’s manual,” says Cauffman. “We haven’t done anything differently with the B100. The study is still ongoing and we are doing evaluations and analysis to see if we can find anything in the engine oil that has changed due to the biodiesel.”
This winter, the first two tractors will be finishing up two years with B100 use. Engineers at New Holland and Penn State will then take a close look at the tractors.
“In the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, we have a unit called the Energy Institute,” Cauffman explains, “and they have an engine lab and scientists who are working with fuels, lubricants and engines. One scientist there, Dr. Andre Boehman, is world-renowned for his knowledge of the effects of fuels and the performance of engines.”
An important relationship
“Our experience in working with New Holland has turned out to be a very important relationship for Penn State. And I think it’s become important for New Holland as well,” says Cauffman. “From Penn State’s perspective, our mission is to discover information and then disseminate that information. That can be through the classes here at the university, but also through the outreach.
“This relationship shows that Penn State collaborates well with industry and that we’re involved with things that are NOW. Often, we’re accused of being into science that never reaches the public or the consumer. Biodiesel is something that is on the ground now. Consumers can participate in it and we’ve tested it so we’re now promoting this renewable source of energy. And, we’re working with industry that says their equipment is capable of running on this renewable fuel.”