TECHNICAL PAPER # 3

UNDERSTANDING ETHANOL FUEL PRODUCTION AND USE

By Cliff Bradley & Ken Runnion

Technical Reviewers Kenneth Brunot C. Gene Haugh Daniel Ingold

Published By

VITA 1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500 Arlington, Virginia 22209 USA Tel: 703/276-1800 . Fax: 703/243-1865 Internet: pr-info@vita.org

Understanding Ethanol Fuel Production and Use ISBN: 0-86619-203-4 [C]1984, Volunteers in Technical Assistance

Preface[edit | edit source]

This paper is one of a series published by Volunteers in Technical Assistance to provide an introduction to specific state-of-the-art technologies of interest to people in developing countries. The papers are intended to be used as guidelines to help people choose technologies that are suitable to their situations. They are not intended to provide construction or implementation details. People are urged to contact VITA or a similar organization for further information and technical assistance if they find that a particular technology seems to meet their needs.

The papers in the series were written, reviewed, and illustrated almost entirely by VITA Volunteer technical experts on a purely voluntary basis. Some 500 volunteers were involved in the production of the first 100 titles issued, contributing approximately 5,000 hours of their time. VITA staff included Leslie Gottschalk as primary editor, Julie Berman handling typesetting and layout, and Margaret Crouch as project manager.

Cliff Bradley and Ken Runnion, co-authors of this paper, specialize in alcohol fuel production technologies. Bradley is a microbiologist and Runnion a chemical engineer at Renewable Technologies, Inc. They have published several practical manuals and booklets in the field, and are currently researching and developing new methods of improving the starch hydrolysis process required for alcohol fuel production. Reviewers Kenneth Brunot, C. Gene Haugh, and Daniel Ingold are also specialists in the area. Brunot, senior vice president for Wright Technology, was formerly president of Wright Energy Nevada Corporation, where he specialized in studies relating to ethanol production using geothermal energy for process energy requirements. Haugh heads the Department of Agricultural Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Ingold is a biophysicist by training and a research engineer at Appropriate Technology Corporation.

VITA is a private, nonprofit organization that supports people working on technical problems in developing countries. VITA offers information and assistance aimed at helping individuals and groups to select and implement technologies appropriate to their situations. VITA maintains an international Inquiry Service, a specialized documentation center, and a computerized roster of volunteer technical consultants; manages long-term field projects; and publishes a variety of technical manuals and papers.

UNDERSTANDING ETHANOL FUEL PRODUCTION AND USE

By VITA Volunteers Cliff Bradley and Ken Runnion

I. INTRODUCTION[edit | edit source]

This paper describes the production and use of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) as a liquid fuel. The production of ethanol is a well-established technology; however, the use of ethanol as a liquid fuel is a complex subject.

Ethanol was one of the first fuels used in automobile engines. It was used extensively in Germany during World War II and also in Brazil, the Philippines, and the United States. During the postwar period, as petroleum supplies became cheap and abundant, gasoline largely replaced ethanol as an automotive fuel. Not until the 1970s, when the supply of oil was restricted, did ethanol re-emerge as an alternative to or extender for petroleum-based liquid fuels (ethanol as an extender is added to these fuels to increase their volume). Today, 12 countries produce and use a significant amount of ethanol. In Brazil, for example, one third of that country's automobiles uses pure ethanol as fuel; the remaining two thirds use mixtures of gasoline and ethanol. France, the United States, Indonesia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Costa Pica, Argentina, the Republic of South Africa, Kenya, Thailand, and Sudan are other countries with government or private ethanol fuel programs. The programs are designed to reduce a country's dependence on costly imported fuel and to assist in creating a new domestic fuel industry.

Pure ethanol can replace gasoline in modified spark-ignition engines, or it can be blended with gasoline at up to 20 percent concentration to fuel unmodified gasoline engines. Blending serves two purposes: (1) it extends gasoline supplies, and (2) as an octane enhancer, it replaces lead compounds in gasoline. Ethanol can also be used in modified diesel (compression ignition) engines; however, this is not common.

The production and use of fuel ethanol can indirectly serve a variety of needs. On a national level, ethanol can improve balance of payments by displacing imported petroleum with domestically produced fuel. This may also provide increased rural employment and alternative markets for agricultural commodities. On a community or individual level, ethanol fuel production is often viewed as a means to become independent of purchased fuels, to keep money within the local economy, and to provide an assured fuel supply in the event of shortages of petroleum fuels.

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