Data and Statistics
Ethanol Status and Trends
Ethanol Projects and Companies
Ethanol - Facts
- Ethanol is the most widely used biofuel today. In 2006, more than 3.7 billion gallons were added to gasoline in the United States to improve vehicle performance and reduce air pollution.
- Between 1999 and 2008, the number of ethanol plants in the U.S. more than tripled, accompanied by a rapid rise in production capacity.
Ethanol is a clean-burning, high-octane fuel that is produced from renewable sources. Because ethanol can be produced domestically in most countries, it helps reduce dependence upon foreign sources of energy for these countries.
Ethanol is beginning to be used all around the world as a transportation fuel, and it has some distinct advantages.
Fuels that burn too quickly make the engine "knock". The higher the octane rating, the slower the fuel burns, and the less likely the engine will knock. When ethanol is blended with gasoline, the octane rating of the petrol goes up by three full points, without using harmful additives.
Adding ethanol to gasoline "oxygenates" the fuel. It adds oxygen to the fuel mixture so that it burns more completely and reduces polluting emissions such as carbon monoxide.
Any amount of ethanol can be combined with gasoline, but the most common blends are:
- E10 - 10% ethanol and 90% unleaded gasoline. E10 is approved for use in any make or model of vehicle.
- E85 - 85% ethanol and 15% unleaded gasoline. E85 is an alternative fuel for use in flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). There are currently millions of FFVs on roads today (over 6 million in the US alone).
It is important to note that it does not take a special vehicle to run on "ethanol". All vehicles can use E10 with no modifications to the engine. E85 is for use in a flexible fuel vehicle. A flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) is an alternative fuel vehicle with an internal combustion engine designed to run on more than one fuel, usually gasoline blended with either ethanol or methanol fuel. In FFVs, both fuels are stored in the same common tank.
Current Feedstocks Used for Ethanol Worldwide
Country / Region
Corn, Sorghum, Maize
South America / Brazil
First and Second Generation Ethanol Feedstock
First generation ethanol feedstock
The first generation ethanol feedstock comprised corn, sugarcane, maize etc. To a large extent, these feedstocks are still in use in many countries. Similar to feedstocks for biodiesel, these feedstocks have the problems of adversely affecting food prices (as these are also used for food) and inability to scale owing to constraints on land areas available for cultivation. Ethanol derived from these feedstocks typically uses the starch component present in them.
Second generation ethanol feedstock
In the case of the first generation ethanol feedstocks, ethanol was derived from the fermentation of ths starch component of the plants. Many parts of the plants also contain sugars called cellulose and hemicellulose. These can be converted into ethanol as well; however, due to the fact that cellulose is usually bound by polymers called lignin, converting cellulose and hemicellulose into simpler sugars and then into ethanol will require separating cellulose from lignin.
A large number of biomass feedstocks are rich in cellulosic material. These feedstocks are referred to as the second generation ethanol. With these feedstocks, ethanol is derived not from the starch component, but from the lignocellulosic component of the feedstock. A large number of wild plants, and even plant waste, contain lignocellulose; as a result, the second generation ethanol feedstocks overcome the two main bottlenecks for the first generation feedstock: adverse effects on food prices and inability to scale.
Ethanol Status and Trends
2007 World Fuel Ethanol Production
Millions of Gallons
Trends in Ethanol from Various Feedstocks
- Corn is used as the feedstock for fuel ethanol production primarily in the US.
- While ethanol from corn gave a quick start to the ethanol fuel industry, especially in the US, corn-based ethanol has come under increasing pressure since then.
- Corn-based ethanol production has been blamed for the rise in food prices in the US in recent years.
- The significant increase in land-use for ethanol-producing corn has also made the feedstock quite unpopular in the US.
- Starting 2009, corn-ethanol producers have come under pressure due to declining ethanol prices and rising corn prices. Tight margins have led some production facilities to close down.
- Most severely, some corn ethanol producers have gone into bankruptcy. In 2005 when the ethanol industry started expanding, corn prices were below $2 per bushel compared to over $3 in Jan 2009 in the US. At the same time, ethanol prices in Jan 2009 were under $1.50 per gallon at the plant and have dropped by over $1.00 since the previous summer’s high. There are many reasons for this decline, including falling crude oil prices, rising ethanol inventories, new ethanol plants coming on-line and other reasons.
- A sharp increase in the use of sugarcane for ethanol is being witnessed in South Asia.
- Brazil leads the world in sugarcane-based ethanol; in Brazil, the land used for sugarcane for ethanol production is capped at a fairly large amount of 45 million hectares, facilitated by the the large area of pasture land in the centre-south region.
Ethanol from Grains (and Beet)
- Production assumed to increase by at least 10% per year (more, if existing OECD policies justify a larger increase) through 2010.
- Max 10% of cropland in US, Canada and EU (7% for wheat and 3% for sugar beets, in EU). Max 5% of cropland in other countries.
- Initial yields at 2 500 litres/ha for wheat (EU), 3 000 litres/ha for North American maize and 5 000 litres/ha for European sugar beets), growing 0.8% per year.
- Quick growth from 2010 to 2020, continued growth (lower) after 2020.
- Production assumed to yield 2 300 litres/ha of gasoline equivalent in 2005 and grow to 4 000 litres/ha by 2050.
- Feedstocks grown on less than 5% of the global pastureland.
Brazil is the world’s largest producer and exporter of ethanol, producing 282,000 barrels per day in 2005. 2010 production is forecast at 442,000 barrels per day. Over half of all cars in the country can run on 100 per cent ethanol or an ethanol-petrol mixture.
Ethanol Production Countrywise
The prospects for the ethanol industry in Canada improved substantially after the government in Ottawa has pledged financial support to the tune of Canadian $100 million for the sector in the framework of its Kyoto commitments. Under the plan, E-10 blends are to achieve a 35% market penetration by 2010, a figure that in today's terms represents 1.33 billion litres per year.
The European Union
Fuel ethanol production in the European Union has not really taken off yet. However, it may do so in the next couple of years. The main drivers will be two biofuel directives by the European Commission. The first directive, which is promotional in nature, has been approved in May 2003. Member states will now have to try to achieve a 2% share of renewables by the end of 2005 and a 5.75% share by end 2010. As a basis for reference, the energy content of all gasoline for transport placed on the market will be used.
The success of ethanol in India will depend to a significant degree on pricing. The sugar industry originally claimed that it could provide ethanol at 19 rupees per litre (about $0.38/litre), which is at a lower cost than the product it would substitute, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), which costs 24-26 rupees per litre ($0.49-0.53/litre). The oil industry however is seeking parity between ethanol and the price of gasoline on an ex-refinery or import basis. In April 2002 the government announced an excise duty exemption. Implementation of the excise duty for ethanol, however, was delayed owing to a variety of reasons.
China is now home to the world's largest fuel ethanol plant. The Jilin Tianhe Ethanol Distillery has an initial capacity of 600,000 tonnes a year or 2.5 million litres per day. Potential final capacity can be raised to 800,000 tonnes per year. Ground breaking took place in September 2001 and by late 2003 the first trials had started.
In November 2002 construction on a plant designed to produce 300,000 tonnes of fuel ethanol annually started in Nanyang, Henan province. The project, built by the Tianguan Ethanol Chemical Group Co., Ltd. (TICG), is expected to cost $155 million and take two years to complete. Combined with the company's existing facility, TICG's total fuel ethanol capacity would reach 500,000 tonnes a year
The United States
The second largest exporter of ethanol in 2003 was the United States. Ethanol producers in the US distilled a record quantity of more than 10.6 billion litres in 2003, mostly derived from corn. Under the renewable fuels standard (RFS), renewable fuels are to grow to almost 20 billion litres by 2012.