What is Ethanol?

May 30, 2023

What is Ethanol? by Pure Motoring Products

Ethanol is made from biomass. Most fuel ethanol that is produced is made through the process of fermenting sugar from the starch of grains like corn, sorghum, and barley, or the sugar in sugar cane and sugar beets. In the U.S., almost all fuel ethanal is produced from the starch of corn kernels, which by the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS) standards is considered a conventional biofuel. Fuel ethanol is tested by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) to ensure it can be used as a fuel in spark-ignition engines. 

Almost all motor gasoline across the country is blended with ethanol and sold with at least 10% ethanol by volume. This gasoline is called E10, and any gas-powered vehicle can use it. For smaller gasoline-powered tools such as boats and landscaping equipment, gasoline without ethanol is recommended if it’s available. The amount of ethanol blended into gasoline is typically under 10% by volume, but the exact amount will vary based on region and time of year. Gasoline called E15 contains 15% ethanol and can only be used in vehicles that are 2001 or newer or flex-fuel vehicles. Some states have E85 gasoline, which contains anywhere from 51% to 83% ethanol and is defined as an alternative fuel. Only flex-fuel vehicles can use this blend and if your vehicle can use it, you’ll know by a badge or plaque on the body. E85 gasoline is typically found in the Midwest. 

Ethanol Produced in the U.S.

The ethanol fuel that we use here in the U.S. is also mostly produced in the U.S. Production has increased every year since 1981 but took a jump in 2008. The U.S. Energy Information Administration states that “since 2008 the increases are largely because of the fuel blending requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard program. Total production capacity increased from 13.6 billion gallons per year in 2011 to 17.5 billion gallons per year in 2021.” Ethanol cannot be transported via petroleum product pipelines; therefore, it must be transported from the production facilities by trains, tankers and barges, and trucks to fueling stations.

Fuel Additives and Ethanol 

Smaller engines and older vehicles do better with ethanol-free fuel, but almost all fuel today is at least E10. Ethanol pulls moisture from the fuel, which can cause issues with engines through rusting, corrosion, and buildup. Fuel additives are an effective and easy way to prevent against rust and corrosion in your vehicle. Not only do fuel additives protect against these negative factors, but they also clean critical fuel system components, making them last longer. When buildup happens, the engine needs to work harder to get the fuel to flow. Fuel additives remove this buildup and sends it to the combustion chamber to be burned away. Additives can help stabilize your fuel during periods of unuse and keeps everything fresh so you can rely on an easy start each time you turn that engine. Visit Pure Motoring Products to see what additives are best for your vehicles or small engine machines.