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USA: Ethanol as a Fuel Additive or Alternative

According to studies oft he US Fuels Institute, ethanol or ethyl alcohol has been widely used as a primary transportation fuel or additive to fossil fuels for decades. As a sythetic liquid fuel produced from biomass feedstocks, ethanol offers a number of advantages over other alternative fuels. While it only has about 66% of the energy density of gasoline, that is more than sufficient to make it readily usable in existing spark ignition internal combustion engines with only minor modifications for higher blend concentration. Blend concentrations below 15%can be used in unmodified gasoline engines.

In U.S. ground transportation fuels market, ethanol is primarily used in two ways. Low concentration blends known as E10, which includes up to 10 % ethanol blended with gasoline, are suitable for use in virtually all spark-ignition vehicles. Since ethanol has a research octane number of 108,6, it is used as an octane booster in combination with lower quality gasoline blends as well as an oxygenating agent to aid combustion and reduce emissions.

E85 fuels, containing concentrations of ethanol up to 83%, are specifically for use in flex-fuel vehicles (FFV). Those vehicles are designed to use any blend of gasoline containing 0% to 83& ethanol and can detect the concentration in the fuel tank and appropriately adjust the air-fuel mixture dynamically. FFV also include modified wetted fuel systems materials to ensure compatibility.

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The Fuels Institute, founded by NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) in 2013, is a non-profit research-orientated think tank that evaluates market issues related to vehicles and the fuels that power them.