A Guide to Bio Ethanol Fuel

Bio Fuels are fuels which are produced from plant material rather than fossil fuels. Bio Ethanol fuel is an alternative fuel to petrol and diesel which has the benefit of creating no carbon emissions when burned. While it was hoped by many that bio-ethanol could become the next big thing in the motor industry it seems that the motor industry has leap frog-ed bio-ethanol fuel in favour of electric motors which are rapidly gaining popularity.

bio fuel car

However this is by no means a death knoll for the bio-ethanol fuel industry, in fact the opposite as it is increasingly being used as fuel in ornamental fire places. These are growing in popularity because many more modern home builds don’t have a chimney built in. Bio Ethanol fires provide a simple and easy way to have a stylish fire in a home which doesn’t cater for wood or coal burning.

How is Bio Ethanol Fuel Produced?

Bio Ethanol is a renewable source of fuel which can be produced in a wide variety of ways. The basic principal of production is that sugar and starch is fermented into ethanol which is then distilled in order to make it concentrated enough to be burnt as fuel.

The sugar and starch components used in the bio ethanol production process typically come from crops like sugarcane and grains such as barley, corn and maize. Depending on where the ethanol is being produced different crops will be used. For example in Europe Wheat and Barley are used, in Brazil Sugarcane and in the USA Corn.

sugarcane for bioethanol fuel

A Crop of Sugarcane

All of these crops can be easily broken down using yeast to create ethanol.

The most popular method of creating Bio Ethanol fuel is through sugar fermentation. This begins with either a wet or dry milling process. The entire process of turning grains into bio fuel is outlined below:

  1. The wet milling process involves dividing your grain into it's separate components before the fermentation process begins.
  2. The dry milling process involves grinding the whole grain into flour, starch in the flour is then converted into ethanol when fermentation begins.
  3. After your grain has been wet or dry milled you will be left with your bio mass which must then be fermented, this can be done in a number of ways but the most popular and simplest way is by using Dilute Acid Hydrolysis.
  4. This process involves breaking down the bio-mass into sucrose using water and heating the solution up while adding a small amount of sulphuric acid.
  5. Once this has been done yeast is added to the solution as it is heated up.
  6. Next an enzyme known as Invertase is added which acts as a catalyst turning the sucrose into fructose and glucose.
  7. The fructose and glucose then react with the yeast enzymes producing carbon dioxide and..ethanol!

Altogether this entire process will take about three days from start to finish and is carried out at very high temperatures between 240°C and 300°C.

How Should Bio Ethanol Fuel be Stored?

Care should be taken to ensure that your fuel is stored safely and securely. Bio Ethanol Fuel is a class 3 flammable liquid (this is any liquid that has a flash point lower than 60°C) so we advise that it is stored in a cool room (less than 15°C) to prevent it vaporising.

It is also a good idea to bring the fuel up to room temperature before igniting it, this can be doing by leaving your fuel indoors for a few hours before use.

Is Bio Ethanol Fuel Carbon Neutral?

In theory Bio Ethanol fuel is carbon neutral because the amount of carbon released when it is burnt is equal to the amount of carbon absorbed by the plant as it grew.

However strictly speaking Bio Ethanol Fuel is not in fact a carbon neutral fuel because fossil fuels are utilised as part of the production process for example in making plant fertiliser.

However Bio Ethanol Fuel is significantly more carbon friendly than fossil fuels so environmentally speaking it is far better than using wood, coal or petroleum as fuel.

The Ethics of Bio Fuels

One of the big problems that some campaigners have with bio fuels is that because farmers can often earn a much better premium for growing grains for bio fuel rather than food there is a strong incentive to cease food production in favour of bio mass production.

This could drive up food prices and in developing countries where food supplies sometimes struggle this could lead to catastrophic and potential fatal consequences.

Consequently here at Fires For You we believe that if you are going to use Bio Ethanol as a fuel you should ensure that it is sourced from a developed country where Bio Ethanol production is not likely to lead to a crisis.

So long as you are aware of where your fuel is sourced from you can enjoy using bio ethanol fuel ethically.