LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- ClearFlame Engine Technologies' ethanol-diesel engine took another leap toward commercialization, as the company secured $30 million in investments from two repeat investors and a handful of new investors. The funding is expected to help ClearFlame commercialize its technology first in long-haul trucks.
Mercuria Energy Group and Breakthrough Energy Ventures made a second round of investments in ClearFlame. Those companies originally were part of a 2021 $17 million investment round secured by ClearFlame. John Deere also was part of that 2021 financing round.
In addition, ClearFlame received funding from several first-time investors in the technology. New investors include mining company Rio Tinto and WIND Ventures, the strategic venture arm of Copec -- one of Latin America's leading mobility and energy companies.
ClearFlame CEO and co-founder BJ Johnson said the new round of funding will propel the ethanol-diesel technology to market.
"ClearFlame continues gaining momentum with technology that heavy-duty equipment users can deploy to more quickly and affordably meet critical ESG (environment, social and governance) goals," Johnson said in a news release.
"Federal Department of Energy funding moved us from concept to patent. Series A funding propelled us from patent to pilot. This latest investment round can accelerate us from pilot to proven product in multiple markets, starting with long-haul trucks."
ClearFlame's patented technology runs on a range of renewable liquid fuels. It can adapt to markets like long-haul trucking, offering the same power, durability and performance as today's diesel engines while readily integrating into existing manufacturing, fueling, maintenance and repair ecosystems, the company said in a news release.
The company is piloting five trucks in collaboration with some of the largest fleet operators in North America. It also is exploring partnerships and applications for the mining, agriculture and power generation sectors.
Diesel fuel consumption accounts for about 26% of overall carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. transportation sector.
ClearFlame said while electric powertrains face "significant barriers" for heavy-duty applications, the company's technology can meet heavy-duty performance requirements while offering better lifecycle greenhouse gas emission reduction than electric vehicles by 61%.
"Mercuria was an early adopter of various environmental products in its portfolio and has committed more than 50% of all new investments to the energy transition," said Boris Bystrov, managing director at Mercuria.
"Mercuria's strategic investment in ClearFlame's technology reflects the company's continued commitment to renewable fuels as part of the energy transition and its belief that ClearFlame's technology can economically decarbonize the heavy-duty industry by utilizing the existing liquid-fueling infrastructure."
ClearFlame continues to receive attention for its technology. In September 2022, the company announced several strategic partnerships.
The company signed memorandums of understanding with Reviva and Vander Haag's Inc. to integrate the technology into a Class-8 truck. In addition, ClearFlame launched its first pilot fleet trial with Beck's, the largest family-owned retail seed company in the U.S. and third-largest seed brand.
Also, a coalition including Central Indiana Ethanol, CountryMark and Co-Alliance Cooperative Inc. partnered to sell E98, a 98% ethanol blend, to Beck's to fuel the pilot. The ClearFlame engine can run on 98% ethanol straight off the rack or even on E85 so long as the fuel is close to 85% ethanol.
As part of ClearFlame's agreements for engine modification, Minneapolis-based Reviva is integrating ClearFlame's kit into existing Cummins X15 engines that will carry two-year warranties.
Reviva is the largest privately held diesel engine remanufacturer in North America, and its engines are available at most aftermarket truck component suppliers and heavy truck dealers in the U.S. and Canada. Vander Haag's Inc., with nine locations throughout the Midwest, will be reinstalling the ClearFlame engines into Class-8 trucks.
ClearFlame said in September 2022 that it expects to achieve commercialization of its engine modification technology by the end of 2023.
In October 2020, ClearFlame announced the technology delivered 500 horsepower and more than 2,500 foot-pounds of torque, "while eliminating the need for additional aftertreatment such as selective catalytic reduction or diesel particulate filter systems."
A selling point for ClearFlame technology is it can replace petroleum fuels with ethanol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as particulate matter and smog, at the same time reducing overall engine cost.
The diesel sector spends about $3.3 billion on aftertreatment each year. Using ethanol in a diesel engine could save the sector $2.5 billion in aftertreatment costs, Johnson told DTN in a previous interview.