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5 Advantages of Ethanol Fuel Blending

Ethanol has a lot going for it, chiefly because it’s a biofuel that can be made from natural crops, such as corn. Eventually, we could see it replace nearly 85% of the petrol we currently use in cars. Most modern cars can run using a mixture of petrol and ethanol, and some cars are rated as “E85” compliant.

E85 is a fuel that consists of 85% ethanol and 15% petrol blended together. The ethanol is ethyl alcohol, to give it its full name, and it’s the same as the alcohol in drinks such as wine. Many new cars and even light goods vehicles are now what is called “flex-fuel” adapted. That means they could even run on 100% ethanol.

Let’s take a look at the top five advantages of ethanol.

  1. It Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions

This is undoubtedly ethanol’s key selling point as far as governments are concerned. Compared to petrol, the emissions can be up to 30% lower. What’s more, it’s less polluting in the environment. If it’s spilt, as a bio product it naturally breaks down over a period of days.

  1. It Creates Usable By-Products

When ethanol is produced from food stocks such as corn, it produces two main by products during processing. One of these is called “dried distillers’ grains” or DDG. These can be used in animal feed to replay soya bean meal or cornmeal. The other by-product is CO2 – carbon dioxide. If this gas is captured during ethanol production, it can be used in a range of applications, such as dry ice and freezing.

  1. It Doesn’t Require New Refineries and Garages

One of the great advantages of ethanol is that, with small adjustments, it can use all the existing fuel infrastructure – the refineries, pipelines, tankers and garages that already exist.

  1. It Has an Energy Balance

This means that the energy required in fuel blending to make ethanol is less than the total energy the fuel then delivers – this is a requirement of a sustainable process. In the US, corn ethanol produces 1.3 energy units for every 1 energy unit it takes to make the fuel. Ethanol made from other products, such as sugarcane, has an even better energy balance. Sugarcane ethanol can provide eight energy units for every one taken to make it.

  1. It Doesn’t Have To Be Made From Foodstuffs

One of the criticisms of ethanol has been that it raises food prices by competing for resources such as corn. However, new research work on ethanol made from cellulose could mean a future fuel doesn’t use large amounts of food stocks and may be able to yield an energy balance of 36 units for every unit used to produce it. You could possibly make this type of ethanol from any living entity – algae, for example.

However, research is also under way to find additives and blends that can be used with ethanol to protect engines and ensure high performance.

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