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The Role of Ethanol in Clean Fuel Advancement

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Chemistry
Wordcount: 1950 words Published: 9th Jul 2021

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In this contemporary world we face many critical challenges. One of the most important challenges that very much concerns the environment is the global warming and depletion of key non- renewable resources. Due to extensive growth in population and the improved standard of living, results an increasing concern that there will be a shortage of energy to heat our homes and power our vehicles. Advances in technology have allowed development of alternate energy sources. Ethanol is a good alternate energy source. Bio-ethanol is widely used bio-fuel for transportation worldwide. Ethanol production from biomass is one way to reduce high consumption and dependency over crude oil and environmental pollution.

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Ethanol and ethanol–gasoline blends have a long history as automotive fuels. As historical data reveals “In 1896, Henry Ford designed his first car, the ‘Quadricycle’ to run on pure ethanol. Then In 1908, ford motor company’s first car, the model T, used ethanol produced from corn as fuel energy”. United states have been using ethanol powered vehicles since early 1900. As per reports “Though, initial efforts to sustain ethanol fuel technology failed, oil supply disruptions and environmental concerns over the use of lead as a gasoline octane booster renewed interest in ethanol in the late 1970s.” [1, John Triandafyllis and Merkouris Gogos]. Ethanol is a renewable, locally delivered alcohol fuel produced using plant material, for example, corn, sugar stick, or grasses. Utilizing ethanol can lessen oil reliance and natural gas outflow. Ethanol is an attractive alternative fuel because it is a renewable bio-based resource and it is oxygenated, thereby providing the potential to reduce particulate emissions in spark ignition engines.


According to data, “Ethanol (CH3CH2OH) is a clear, colourless liquid. It is also known as ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, and EtOH . Ethanol has a high-octane number compared to gasoline, providing premium blending properties.[3, Alternate fuels data center, U.S dept of Energy. USDA’s 2017]”

Ethanol contains less energy per gallon than gasoline fuel, Premium ethanol (98% ethanol) contains about 29% less energy than gasoline per gallon. [4, Meng, L. (2019).]. Ethanol’s impact on fuel economy is dependent on the ethanol content in the fuel and whether an engine is optimized to run on gasoline or ethanol. The viscosity of ethanol is much less than diesel fuel, which is considered as the reason that the ethanol-fuelled compression ignition engines start more quickly than a diesel engine. Ethanol has a lower molecular weight compared to alcohol and is soluble in water. Hence, liquid fraction separation is easier when blended with gasoline.

Performance of an ethanol driven engine shows a 10% increase in efficiency compared to gasoline driven engine. Moreover, Ethanol is highly volatile and required changes to volatility properties during refinery treatments.


  1. Principal Advantages:
  1. Higher latent heat of vaporization
  2. Uniform composition.
  3. Higher flash point.
  4. Very high-octane rating.
  5. No hazardous component.
  6. Higher compression operation of the engine.
  7. Reduced particulate emissions.
  8. Enhanced engine power output and efficiency.
  9. Increased safety during use.

[5,International journal of environmental sciences   Volume 1, No 2 2010.]

  1. Low resource price:

Ethanol can be produced in any country with agricultural capacity, hence fuel resource monopoly is less.

  1. Environmentally friendly:

Major advantage of ethanol over other fuel sources is that it does causes less pollution to the environment with release of less toxic substances after combustion.

  1. Renewable energy:

It is classified as a renewable resource because it’s mainly as a consequence of photosynthesis from fuel crops and biomass.

  1. Reusable by-products:

The two primary by-products that come from ethanol production are DDGs and carbon dioxide. When CO2 capture technologies are applied to ethanol production, it can be used for dry ice creation, cryogenic freezing, and an agent for pneumatic systems. DDGs stands for “dried distillers’ grains” and is used to replace cornmeal or soybean meal in animal food stocks.

  1. Oxygenation:

Ethanol oxygenates the fuel and improves combustion efficiency and reduces CO2 and CO emissions. [6, Daniel Ciolkosz]


1. Less effective compared to gasoline:
Experimental result quotes “It takes up to 1.4 gallons of ethanol to replicate the mileage that 1 gallon of gasoline can provide. Flex-fuel vehicles that can run on E85 fuel have found that their gas mileage rates are over 25% lower, with some models seeing a 30% reduction with city miles”. [7, Crystal Lombardo]

2. Proved to be a corrosive fuel:
Ethanol is highly corrosive because it has an ability to absorb water. That makes it difficult to ship the fuel over long distances or store fuel. Because water is absorbed by this fuel, it corrodes the engine parts and fuel tank causing potential damage to a vehicle.

3. Requirement of lot of cropland space:
Large areas of forest lands need to be converted to grow fuel sources such as corn fields to meet the growing demand.

5. Altered food production principles:
Due to higher price of corn, more farmers look at ethanol as a viable way to make a living. Instead of using their lands to produce food products, they convert over to growing fuel products. As ethanol demands increase, additional farmers will look to convert to the higher paying yields of corn, especially if there are subsidies available for crop loss.

6.  Higher fuel consumption and drains driveability.
A major drawback of ethanol blends is the increase in fuel consumption due to the lower calorific value of ethanol compared to gasoline. There are s effects of ethanol blends on vehicle drivability during cold starting conditions. [8]


  1. A transport fuel blended with gasoline fuels or completely replacing them.
  2. A fuel for power generation by thermal combustion at small scale power plants.
  3. A fuel for fuel cells by thermochemical reaction.
  4. A fuel in cogeneration systems.
  5. A feedstock in the chemicals industry.


Ethanol Bio-fuel can only be blended upto 10% with gasoline to achieve better efficiency by increasing octane number of fuels in normal engines. Excess blending results in decrease in fuel economy.

“Replacing only five percent of the nation’s diesel consumption with biodiesel would require diverting approximately 60 percent of today’s soy crops to biodiesel production, which requires large legislative demands to acquire lands to grow crops for fuel production.”

The major boomers leading to increase in ethanol production are:

  1. Surge in crude oil prices

A rise in oil prices naturally leads to an increase in motor fuel prices. Higher oil prices elicit numerous responses from consumers and firms. In the short run, with few alternatives, demand for gasoline tends to be relatively unaffected. Over time, though, higher oil prices spur an increase in demand for alternative fuels and a decline in the quantity of oil demanded.

  1. Government support for production of ethanol

Many governments such as USA and Brazil have supported use of ethanol blended fuel for powering automobiles. The Government rolled out various tax cuts and credits to protect domestic ethanol producers and to generate tax revenue to offset some of the cost of the ethanol tax credits.

  1. Ethanol as fuel additive

MTBE additive used to reduce smog near refineries were replaces by ethanol additives as MTBE was water pollutant. Hence demand for ethanol grew and also price. [9, Kevin L. Kliesen].


The properties of ethanol significantly attribute to a requirement for lot of modifications and advancements in production technologies to effectively use ethanol as an alternate fuel in automobile engines. The Engines should be designed optimally to modify temperature and pressure conditions during combustion cycle and to create a suitable environment for its high volatile nature and viscosity properties. The engine technology should also focus on adapting engines for any amount of blended fuels, irrespective of ethanol percentages.

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The emerging markets for new range of Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV), starting from Volkswagen polo E-Flex to Audi A3 e-power, which have overcome the requirement for a gasoline tank and can run efficiently on E-85 ethanol fuel blend in any conditions. These advancement in technology can provide a platform for more effective use of Ethanol as an alternate fuel. Large croplands requirement can be tackled by minimizing the use of ethanol fuel and relying on solar and electricity produced from biomass.


The advantages and disadvantages of ethanol reflects us that a well-regulated system that includes different types of ethanol could be beneficial. In USA and Brazil, with such a heavy reliance on corn-based fuels, the socioeconomic impact of artificially high yield costs, combined with cropland loss for fuel, could increase household food insecurity levels. A greater balance in production methods could restore balance in this area. We also have to look for fuel resources which are more environmentally friendly and require less modifications to present infrastructure in industries. Ethanol fuel technology has the potential to play a major role in the future where clean man-made fuels are the norms.


  1. The effects of ethanol on internal   combustion engines[John Triandafyllis and Merkouris Gogos].
  2. Journal of Advanced Review on Scientific Research ISSN (online): 2289-7887 | Vol. 21, No.1. Pages 27-42, 2016.
  3. Alternate fuels data center, U.S dept of Energy. USDA’s 2017 – A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn Based Ethanol.
  4. Meng, L. (2019). Ethanol in Automotive Applications. Ethanol, 289–303. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-811458-2.00011-0. International journal of environmental sciences   Volume 1, No 2 2010.
  5. Daniel Ciolkosz, Penn State Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Reviewed by Andre Boehman, University of Michigan, and Douglas Schaufler, Penn State Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
  6. rystal Lombardo(Author) https://vittana.org/11-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-ethanol
  7. https://easychem.com.au/production-of-materials/renewable-ethanol/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-ethanol-as-a-fuel/
  8. Kevin L. Kliesen (Author) https://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/regional-economist/july-2008/ethanol-economic-gain-or-drain


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