What exactly is ethanol?
Ethanol is a clean-burning, high-octane motor fuel that is produced by the fermentation of plant sugars. It is made from renewable energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 90%.
Ethanol has been produced since pre-historic times, mainly used in alcoholic beverages. However, in the transportation industry, ethanol is either used as a vehicle fuel by itself, blended with petrol, or as a petrol octane enhancer and oxygenate.
At Green Fuel, we produce anhydrous ethanol from sugarcane, with a purity range of a minimum of 99.6% ethanol and a maximum of 0.4% of other particulates. This is the highest quality ethanol available for blended fuel and is created by passing the ethyl alcohol through the latest distillation technology.
What is the history of ethanol?
Henry Ford designed the first Model T automobiles in 1908 to run on ethanol. In addition, ethanol has been produced in Zimbabwe for over 40 years, for both alcohol and transportation fuel purposes and our local fuel contained ethanol blends of between 10-25% from the 70’s up until the late 90’s. This blending was introduced to alleviate fuel shortages and high petrol prices and production only ceased due to drought in Lowveld and a crash in the international oil price. All cars in the county during this 20 year period ran on an ethanol blend of up to 25% with no compatibility issues.
In addition, the ethanol during this time was hydrous, containing between 4% and 7% water. This is unlike the current ethanol, which is anhydrous and has a purity level of 99.6%. Water-free ethanol is superior for blending purposes and Green Fuel’s anhydrous ethanol is in line with the ‘fuel grade’ approved for use in Europe and US (to EU standards, specifications EN 15376 and CWA (EN) 15293).
What are ethanol blends?
Ethanol blends are the amount of ethanol as a percentage mixed with petrol. For example, E10 is 10% ethanol blended with 90% petrol. The most common blends are E10, E20, E50 and E85. The ‘E’ indicates that the fuel contains ethanol or Green Fuel.
What is the worldwide use of ethanol?
A significant number of countries use ethanol blended fuel and every country that produces ethanol for domestic consumption has implemented incentives for such projects, the most basic of these being mandatory blending.
Incentives are introduced because of the many benefits that ethanol production and use brings to a country – job creation, foreign currency retention, environmental protection, promotion of agriculture and the reduction of the price of petrol at the pump.
Lower percentages are in place in countries where there is little or no production of ethanol and all targets are set to increase over the next few years due to the benefits of renewable fuels. A summary of the mandatory blending worldwide is set out in this table.
Though mandated only in 10 states, ethanol blends in the U.S. are available in other states as optional or added without any labelling, making E blends present in two-thirds of the U.S. petrol supply.
In addition many of our neighbouring countries are introducing mandatory blending policies including Uganda and Mozambique which are currently legislating 10% mandate, South Africa which has gazetted its intention to introduce 10% mandatory blending (requiring a minimum of 200 million litres of ethanol per year) and Zambia which will soon introduce 20% mandatory blending.