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Ethanol Promises a Bright Future Ahead

Soaring conventional fuel prices are hasting the hunt to find alternatives. Globally, nations are searching for an efficient, economical, and sustainable source, which would also be easy to replenish. A fuel of such kind would be ideal.

In search of ideal fuel, we delved into solar energy, wind energy, and simply electrical energy to fuel our vehicles in place of conventional petroleum-based fuel. However, all these sources require an additional infrastructure- an entire system from fuel generation, and transportation to fuel consumption on a large scale. All of these sources are also limited by availability. So, the hunt for the ideal fuel continues.

To date, we have not found the ideal fuel, but we have discovered its close substitute- Ethanol.

Through this piece, we will delve into this fuel, identifying its composition, global demand, challenges, and prospects.

Introduction to Ethanol:

Hailing from the family of alcohol, Ethanol is a colorless, odorless, and flammable liquid, which either as a standalone or in addition to gasoline can be used as a fuel. The other member of the biofuel family is biodiesel.

Ethanol is a sustainable and reliable alternative to conventional fuels. It is eco-friendly, easy to harvest, and does not require any additional infrastructure investment such as a charging station or solar cells. Being similar in composition and structure, this can easily replace conventional fuel- such as petrol, diesel, and gasoline at a fuel pump.

Ethanol as a Fuel:

The best part is that ethanol can be produced through sugar-based plants such as sugarcane or corn. The process is called fermentation. The fermented ethanol is mixed with gasoline to produce ethanol-based based usually referred to in the form E10 (90% Gasoline with 10% ethanol).

Global Outlook for Ethanol:

Impressed by its massive potential, countries are rapidly setting up ethanol manufacturing facilities. Today, the United States and Brazil are two leading producers of Ethanol, meeting 82% of global requirements. And why not, Ethanol shows a credible future. The Research findings of Precedence research valued the ethanol market at nearly 100 Billion USD in 2022, expecting a compounded growth rate of 5.1% (CAGR) from 2023 to 2032.

Global Ethanol Production- Country-Wise/Region-Wise

Global Ethanol Production Country-Wise


Globally, scientists vouch for Ethanol as a sustainable fuel source with a longer life and comparatively lower impact on the environment.

This versatile fuel has a rich history, dating back to its initial use in ancient China to power lamps. Despite the passage of time, ethanol has retained its allure and continues to stand out as a popular biofuel.

However, as the fuel demand soared and the availability became scarce, we looked for alternatives more frantically; that is when ethanol rose to power.

In the present day, nations worldwide are actively exploring ways to integrate ethanol into their daily energy landscape. Major automobile manufacturers such as Maruti Suzuki, Audi, and Toyota are standing at the forefront of this transition. Toyota, in conjunction with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, rolled out the Corolla Altis Hybrid; Maruti Suzuki has launched E20 and E85 compatible vehicles, which can run on both petrol and ethanol.

Countries are embracing ethanol with open arms, investing money, and identifying opportunities to make it a sustainable alternative to gasoline.

The United States is actively experimenting with bringing the fuel to freight trains as well and Brazil has already developed an ethanol-powered airplane for aerial transportation.

Even regulatory bodies are pushing for the use of ethanol. Governments are actively looking to blend ethanol into petroleum. India has vouched to achieve 20% ethanol blending in the coming two years.

Ethanol in Comparison to the Gasoline:

While regulatory bodies and on team Ethanol, let us draw a comparison between ethanol and gasoline to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both.





Renewable, derived from plants such as corn and sugarcane

Non-renewable, derived from crude oil

Production Process

Fermentation of sugars, distillation, dehydration

Refinement of crude oil

Octane Rating

Octane rating is the ability of a fuel to withstand compression in an internal combustion engine.

The octane rating of ethanol is 88 octanes for E15 and 108 octanes for E85. A higher octane rating leads to better engine performance.

Lower octane rating of range 87- 94 octane.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

34 - 44% lower greenhouse gas emission compared to gasoline, considered more environmentally friendly

Higher emissions per unit of energy.

One gallon of gasoline produces 8,887 grams of carbon dioxide.

Combustion Properties

Cleaner burning, with fewer harmful pollutants- although produces carbon monoxide.

Releases more pollutants during combustion

Energy Content

Contains less energy per unit than gasoline because it contains lower carbons per atom.

Higher energy content per unit

Engine Compatibility

Requires modifications in some cases (flex-fuel vehicles are designed to use ethanol blends)

Compatible with standard combustion engines


Price can be influenced by agricultural and production factors

Prices influenced by global oil markets


Considered more sustainable due to renewable sources.

However, initial reports suggest that ethanol requires higher water content to produce and produces more harmful chemicals during fuel production

Non-renewable and contributes to resource depletion


Reduces the dependence of nations on external fuel supply since ethanol can be produced locally

Requires to be sourced from crude oil reserves.

The Blurry Picture of Ethanol:

While ethanol is often presented as a promising alternative fuel, it does have a darker side that merits consideration. Scientists are concerned about the staggering water requirement for ethanol production. To establish ethanol as a dominant fuel globally, immense quantities of sugarcane and corn would be required- substantially increasing the demand for both water and land.

Another significant drawback of ethanol is its lower energy density compared to gasoline, leading to reduced fuel efficiency and a shorter driving range. On top of that, Ethanol tends to absorb water, leading to a phenomenon known as phase separation. This can occur when ethanol-blended fuel is exposed to moisture, causing the ethanol to separate from the gasoline.


While the world is embracing ethanol with open arms, it is the right time to look out for potential disruptions as well. Since the fuel is still in the development phase, it is important to approach fuel integration into mainstream use with a discerning eye. There is a need for careful consideration to avoid premature adoption of the fuel without fully exploring the fuel’s bandwidth.

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