Bioethanol vs Ethanol. What's the Difference?
Date Posted:26 November 2019
What is the difference between Bioethanol and Ethanol? Is Bioethanol more environmentally friendly?
Bioethanol vs. Ethanol
There are common misconceptions about the differences between Bioethanol and Ethanol. We get asked all the time if Bioethanol is more environmentally friendly than Ethanol, and the answer isn’t that straightforward.
In essence, Ethanol is grain alcohol. Chemically speaking, Bioethanol and Ethanol are the exact same compound as the chemical formula is identical. The difference between the two lies with the method in which they have been made. Bioethanol is considered to be made through a more eco-friendly process using the fermentation of contemporary materials such as sugar beets, corn, straw, and wood. Ethanol, or Synthetic Ethanol, is made from petrochemical feed stocks (akin to fossil fuels), primarily by the acid-catalysed hydration of ethylene.
Despite their source materials, Bioethanol and Ethanol function identically. They are particulate-free and relatively clean-burning fuel sources as there is a lot of oxygen in its chemical compound, regardless of the production process.
The decision between the two lies solely upon the source of the ethanol and whether or not that source is sustainable. Synthetic production which relies on fossil fuels is obviously a less-clean and sustainable production method. On the other hand, Bioethanol is made from organic and food sources, most commonly corn and sugarcane. However, this may not be sustainable either as valuable crops and cropland that could be used for food to consume are instead being burned as fuel.
New non-food alternatives are emerging though as tree trimmings, sawdust and agricultural residues like wheat straw and fast-growing grasses are being used to produce Ethanol.
So while Bioethanol and Ethanol aren't exactly perfect or entirely renewables sources of fuel, they are considerably cleaner and more environmentally friendly than traditional fuel sources like gasoline. Comparing them to each other though, Bioethanol is definitely 'greener' due to its source materials, but aside from that, they are identical solvents.