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Certarus to test Innovative Fuel Systems’ multi-fuel technology

Edmonton-based Innovative Fuel Systems Ltd., (IFS) has added Certarus Ltd. to a growing list of c...

IMAGE: The MFTP technology installed in a KAG Canada truck

Innovative Fuel Systems’ MFTP technology is designed to be installed in tractor-trailers and other heavy-duty vehicles. (Courtesy IFS)

Edmonton-based Innovative Fuel Systems Ltd., (IFS) has added Certarus Ltd. to a growing list of clients for its Multi Fuel Technology Platform, which is designed for use in heavy-duty fleet vehicles.

The patent-pending Multi Fuel Technology Platform (MFTP) enables diesel-burning heavy-duty engines to reduce GHG emissions by substituting up to 60 per cent of diesel fuel with compressed natural gas or renewable natural gas. The average reported fuel split for the company’s clients has been 45 per cent natural gas and 55 per cent diesel.

Installations in Certarus vehicles in the U.S. and Canada are expected to begin this spring.

Many heavy-duty diesel trucks in Canada are capable of carrying loads of up to 130,000 pounds, according to Leland Oberst, the president and CEO of IFS.

“With our technology, even though we can get rid of up to 60 per cent of the diesel . . . there’s absolutely no loss of power at any point time along the power curve, no matter what load they’re carrying,” Oberst explained.

IFS and the Multi Fuel Technology Platform

That was among the main selling points for Certarus, reducing GHG emissions and saving money on fuel costs via natural gas usage. Oberst said he’s unaware of any competitors who can offer a similar near-50/50 fuel blend with no power loss.

He also said the MFTP system would soon incorporate hydrogen gas once its infrastructure is built up and cost-prohibitive barriers are removed.

IFS was founded in 2017 and developed the dual-fuel platform for a little over three years.

Certarus learned about the MFTP product about eight months ago when it was buying another IFS product, which converts light-duty trucks to run on natural gas. The companies began talking about installing MFTP in Certarus heavy-duty vehicles, and a trial was arranged.

The rollout will start in Alberta with one truck in April, then four trucks in Ontario in June or July, and finally in Texas, where four trucks will operate beginning in August.

According to Oberst, the company would have been “a little more ahead of the curve” commercializing the MFTP, if not for COVID-caused supply chain issues.

Future MFTP deals on the horizon

Last November, IFS also signed a deal with Jacknife Oilfield Services, an Indigenous-owned heavy-duty truck fleet in Alberta and Saskatchewan, to install MFTP on up to 50 of its fleet trucks this year.

In March, it launched a deal with KAG Canada, North America’s largest independent fuel delivery and bulk liquids carrier, to use the MFTP technology in six of its tractor-trailers.

Oberst says these deals likely helped Certarus “move the dial.”

“We’re talking to a number of heavy-duty fleets in Alberta and in North America to put it on their trucks, and our plan is to scale pretty quickly here,” he said.

As for Certarus, Oberst hopes the system will eventually be installed on, “most if not the whole fleet. That’s the goal. We plan on scaling dramatically; it’s a huge market.”

Oberst’s goal is to become the preeminent supplier of dual-fuel systems within two to three years. That would mean over $250 million in revenue and $100 million in EBITDA by 2026.

While the overall goal of cleaner-burning fuel in the heavy-duty space won’t change, Oberst is open to multiple pathways to reach it.

“Today, we’ve got a CNG-diesel blend,” he said. “Tomorrow, we got a hydrogen-diesel blend. Seven or eight years out, it might be something completely different.”

Oberst had spent 15 years as a partner at Deloitte, before deciding he wanted to do something entrepreneurial. He found a company in Alberta with this natural gas/diesel fuel technology, but it was undercapitalized and had other financial issues.

“I bought a few of the assets and started my own company,” he said. “I just banded the assets in and started development (on MFTP) because the technology didn’t work on new units. It only worked on older units. Fast forward five years, and here we are.”

Certarus, with Canadian headquarters in Calgary and U.S. operations in Houston, operates North America’s largest network of bulk compression stations for large volume fuel consumption customers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated after publishing to clarify the timing of the KAG deal, and to update figures for estimated revenues and EBITDA through 2026.

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