In January 2004, California will ban methyl tertiary-butyl ether, an additive to gasoline that makes the fuel burn hotter but it is also a pollutant. Ethanol can be used as an alternate fuel additive to replace methyl tertiary-butyl ether, MTBE. This will open the market up for ethanol production. MTBE has been used for years, but it is now considered by some as an environmental threat.
MTBE is a byproduct made from oil. It’s added to reformulated gasoline as an oxygenated fuel to make the engine burn cleaner. The EPA has classified MTBE as a possible human carcinogen. Laboratory rats and mice who consumed MTBE have developed lymphoma, leukemia, and testicular tumors. So far the EPA has resisted calling a ban on all MTBE. Laboratory test have shown small amounts of MTBE (little as 5 parts per billion) have the same effect on lab animals.
Another government report states, MTBE is a suspected carcinogen. The U.S. Geological Survey has found MTBE in more than a quarter of the nation’s shallow urban water wells, streams, lakes, rain, and snow. This survey reported that MTBE doesn’t biodegrade. MTBE can affect the water supply for years, even if MTBE is banned. EPA has not set a national standard for MTBE in drinking water, but some states have set their own limits.
What is Ethanol?
Ethanol (ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, EtOH) is a clear, colorless liquid with an agreeable odor. In dilute aqueous solution, it has a somewhat sweet flavor, but in more concentrated solutions it has a burning taste. Ethanol (CH3CH2OH) is made up of a group of chemical compounds whose molecules contain a hydroxyl group, -OH, bonded to a carbon atom. Ethanol made from cellulosic biomass materials instead of traditional feedstocks (starch crops) is called bioethanol.
The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 mandated the sale of oxygenated fuels in areas with unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide. Since that time, there has been a strong demand for ethanol as an oxygenate blended with gasoline. In the United States each year, approximately 2 billion gallons are added to gasoline to increase octane and improve the emissions quality of gasoline. In some areas, ethanol is blended with gasoline to form an E10 blend (10% ethanol and 90% gasoline), but it can be used in higher concentrations such as E85 or in its pure form.
All automobile manufacturers that do business in the United States approve the use of 10 percent ethanol/gasoline blends. Fuel ethanol blends are successfully used in all types of vehicles and engines that require gasoline. Approval of ethanol blends is found in the owners' manuals under references to refueling or gasoline. E-diesel, a fuel mix of up to 15% ethanol and regular Number 2 diesel fuel, is starting to be used in vehicles without any major engine modifications.
Chemical properties: Ethanol is ethane with a hydrogen molecule replaced by a hydroxyl radical. Ethanol increases oxygenate supplies, reducing the need for MTBE imports and helping to reduce consumer costs.
- Ethanol blended fuels represent more than 12% of the U.S. motor gasoline sales.
- Ethanol is widely marketed across the country as a high octane enhancer and oxygenate that reduces air pollution and improves automobile performance.
- Ethanol production reduces our energy Imports and exports, thereby reducing overall gasoline prices and benefiting consumers.
- Ethanol blends up to 10% are approved under the warranties of all the major auto manufactures, domestic and foreign, marketing in the U.S.
- 80% of all revenue generated by an ethanol facility is spent within a 50 mile radius of the plant, thereby creating substantial pockets of rural economic development.
Legislation for the ban of MTBE continues to grow, thus leading to a growth and demand for ethanol. U.S. lawmakers initiated a renewable fuel energy bill. The renewable standard will increase amount of ethanol blended into gasoline each year. The Senate’s goal would be to blend five billion gallons per year by 2012 while the House is considering up to 2015. This legislation would gradually eliminate the use of MTBE.
Goals of this legislation:
- Decrease oil imports by 302 million barrels per year
- U.S. trade deficit will diminish by $63.5 million due to reduction of oil imports
- Create 300,000 new jobs
- Boost farm income by $6.6 billion
- Add $10 billion to rural economic development
This legislation will offer tax incentives for using ethanol, and any component to process ethanol. This will create an increasing need to build ethanol plants
Increase ethanol demand
If we replaced all the imported MTBE with ethanol, then 8 billion gallons of ethanol would be required. As legislation pushes to ban all MTBE, the demand of ethanol must replace MTBE. With the current ethanol capacity, it would require more ethanol production facilities to replace the remaining 5.2 billions of MTBE
There are 73 commercial ethanol production facilities in the U.S. as of August 2003. Ethanol production capacity in the United States now exceeds 2.8 billion gallons annually. The annual ethanol production will increase by 555 millions gallons due to 14 current plant constructions. Approximately 95% of U.S. ethanol is manufactured from corn and it follows that the majority of production capacity and subsequent use of ethanol is in the Midwest.
Absolute Filters Ethanol Involvement
AF products can be used in various points in the ethanol process. Since some ethanol building projects are considered fast track, AF can work quickly to accommodate its products accordingly. Contact AF for any nonspecific applications. You may also contact AF for any additional questions regarding the ethanol process or AF’s products.