Ethanol can be directly blended with gasoline, reacted with isobutylene to form the oxygenated fuel additive ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE), or burned directly as a neat fuel. Blends of either ethanol or ETBE with gasoline force engines set for gasoline to run lean and can substantially reduce carbon monoxide emissions. ETBE also lowers the overall vapor pressure, thereby cutting back on smog-forming emissions. Neat ethanol further reduces smog formation since it has a low volatility, the photochemical reactivity of ethanol and its combustion products is low, and low levels of smog producing compounds are formed by ethanol combustion. Neat ethanol also offers good engine performance owing to its high heat of vaporization, high octane, and low flame temperature.
Fermentation stoichiometry reveals that many feedstocks are expensive for fuels production even considering coproduct credits and ignoring conversion costs, whereas lignocellulosic feedstocks cost much less than their value. Furthermore, the quantities of lignocellulosics are projected to be ample even for neat ethanol production. Release of carbon dioxide during fermentation concentrates almost all the heat of combustion from the solid carbohydrate portion in liquid ethanol. Since the carbon dioxide released during production and use of ethanol is recycled during growth of biomass, ethanol utilization doesn’t contribute to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and possible global warming.
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Wyman, C.E., Hinman, N.D. Ethanol. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 24, 735–753 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02920291
- green-house effect