What is ethanol?
Ethanol is a clear colourless liquid that can be made from many different sources including wheat, molasses a by-product of sugarcane production or any starch. It is also known as alcohol The boiling point of ethanol is 78 °C and the flashpoint is 11 °C. there are many ethanol products on the market in Australia are not manufactured for drinking or human consumption. These include for the extract oils, disinfectant, sterilise medical equipment, as a window cleaner, automotive fuel and there are many more uses including indoor or outdoor ethanol heating.
Drinking grade ethanol or alcohol differs from commercial or industrial grades with no addition of denaturants, Bitrex, hydrocarbon or methanol. Ethanol mixes well with water, and you will find that ethyl alcohol is a common ingredient in cosmetics, cleaners and fuels. When using ethanol on the skin as rubbing alcohol it is recommended to dilute it down to about 70%. You can also add in a fragrance to mix with ethanol to make as a disinfectant to use around the home.
Uses for ethanol
Ethanol is used in Printing Ink, Gel and Liquid Hand sanitizers, Scientific research, cleaning window, used in alcoholic beverages, Beauty, Heating, Petrol blends, rocket engines,
Ethanol – Food vs Fuel
It is important to realise that not all ethanol is equal, especially when it comes to sustainability. There has been much debate around the use of biofuels taking resources away from food production. This debate mainly refers to the overseas production of ethanol and specifically the use of corn and grains to produce ethanol.
The sugar/molasses-based ethanol situation is different, sugar is a sweetener, not a food staple. Unlike corn and grain, sugar contains no protein, fat or vitamins.
Other benefits of sugar/molasses based ethanol include:
- The molasses used to produce Ethanol is a by-product of sugar production and is not a
- Ethanol produced from Sugar has 4 times the C02 reduction of ethanol produced from
- 60% of Australian sugarcane is now grown without irrigation.
Water management practices have been implemented by sugarcane farmers through a Rural Water Use Efficiency Project (RWUE). The RWUE project has lead to 91% changing the layout of their farm to improve the efficiency of irrigation and/or harvesting operations.
Methanol & Hydrocarbon Free Bioethanol
Why should I be concerned if the bioethanol I have contains methanol or hydrocarbons?
Ethanol is exactly the same chemical structure no matter what the feedstock it is products from. However, the added denaturants put into ethanol to stop people from drinking the product varies dramatically. These denaturants are not all equal, and using bioethanol indoors that contains methanol or petrochemical hydrocarbon is unhealthy and dangerous.
Some companies promote Methylated Spirit or Industrial Methylated Spirit. In Australia, Methylated Spirit is a technical or industrial grade of ethanol which is denatured with hazardous chemicals for industrial applications and not for use indoors. The denaturants used in methylated spirit vary and can commonly contain toxic methanol, Methyl Isobutyl Ketone, Denatonium Benzoate (Bitrex) and in some cases hydrocarbons.
Related article – how to clean your make-up brush in one easy step.
Bioethanol the Green product
The biological process of producing bioethanol from either by-products or renewable feedstock which makes bioethanol a very green and environmentally friendly alternative to the petroleum oil, coal and gas-based products on the Australian and world market.
Bioethanol can be made from renewable biological by-products and from sugar production or wheat. In the case of ethanol produced from molasses, it is fermented with water and yeast to product bioethanol. After fermentation has finished, all solids and water are removed by distillation resulting in pure ethanol. The solid matter left after fermenting can be used as stock food or fertiliser and the water can be recycled or used on crops for irrigation. A large percentage of bioethanol produced in Australia is made from molasses.
Bioethanol is one of most common biofuels currently available on the market, biodiesel being the other.