What is the sustainable solution for integrating ethanol into transportation fuel supplies?
The current method of adding ethanol to gasoline is splash-blending at the oil terminal which does not produce a consistent homogeneous gasoline. Essentially, a metered percentage of ethanol 10% is added as the fuel is loaded onto the delivery truck on its way to your gas station. This is much more costly than having "finished gasoline" leave the refinery via the vast network of pipelines that connect the refineries with large storage and distribution terminals located throughout our country. Ethanol is not shipped via pipelines because it is highly corrosive, and must be shipped to the individual distribution terminals by barge, train, or truck. Once the ethanol arrives at your local oil terminal, it must be stored in tanks dedicated to ethanol, until it is mixed with the gasoline as it is loaded onto the truck that will deliver it to the gas station.
MTBE is produced by reacting methanol with refinery gasses, or LPG's(butane,ect). Ethanol can be reacted with refinery gases to produce ETBE, ethyl tert-butyl ether. ETBE is chemically very different than ethanol and can blend with gasoline at higher ratios (up to 17%). Furthermore, ETBE can also be shipped by petroleum pipelines or loaded onto tankers carrying gasoline from foreign destinations. As a blending agent, ETBE is far superior to MTBE because ETBE contains no poisonous residual methanol like MTBE does. Also, adding ETBE to gasoline does not require taking other components out of the gasoline first, as with ethanol. The loss incurred with ethanol blending is known as "refinery shrinkage", and in our current fuel situation, any refinery shrinkage results in staggering losses of the gasoline supply.
Regular octane grade 17% ETBE blended gasoline can also be made high octane by adding up to an additional 10% ethanol, resulting in the ability to produce a bio-alternative fuel that is only 75% gasoline! This is a staggering prospect, because this 15-25% blend of bio-ethanol ETBE fuel is so rich in octane that the base gasoline required to make this alternative fuel can be very easy to produce. Octane optimization requires a cost effective and sustainable alternative to MTBE as an octane enhancer. ETBE is the answer.
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