What is Bioethanol?

The principle fuel used as a petrol substitute for road transport vehicles is bioethanol. Bioethanol fuel is mainly produced by the sugar fermentation process, although it can also be manufactured by the chemical process of reacting ethylene with steam.

The main sources of sugar required to produce ethanol come from fuel or energy crops. These crops are grown specifically for energy use and include corn, maize wheat crops, and many other carbohydrate rich crops. In theory Bioethanol is 100% carbon neutral, meaning that every bit of carbon that is burnt whilst using it as fuel eventually is recycled back into the next crop of vegtables that are grown. However it isn't quite as clear cut as this as there are additional carbon costs such as powering the agricultural vehicles, making the fertilisers and transporting the fuel.

Taking all these into account Bioethanol is around 50-60% carbon neutral, not quite as good, but still a great leap forward from Petrol, which is 0% carbon neutral. There is also ongoing research and development into the use of municipal solid wastes to produce ethanol fuel.

Bioethanol is an alternative to Petrol

Ethanol is a clear colourless liquid, it is biodegradable, low in toxicity and causes little environmental pollution if spilt. Ethanol burns to produce carbon dioxide and water. By blending ethanol with gasoline we can also oxygenate the fuel mixture so it burns more completely and reduces polluting emissions.

Ethanol fuel blends are widely sold in the United States, but are far less popular here, however since January 2005 there is a 20p per litre tax relief on BioEthanol, and so we hope to see its use greatly increase. Whatprice would love to hear from you if you know where BioEthanol is being sold!

The most common blend is 10% ethanol and 90% petrol (E10). Vehicle engines require no modifications to run on E10 and vehicle warranties are unaffected also.

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