Facts About Ethanol - United Petroleum

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Facts About Ethanol



  • Ethanol is a sustainable, renewable fuel
  • Ethanol manufacture at the Dalby Bio-Refinery represents a 20% reduction in carbon emissions when compared to traditional petroleum manufacture.
  • Ethanol is an oxygenate that reduces petrol tailpipe carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 30% and tailpipe fine particular matter emissions by 50%.
  • Ethanol’s higher “octane” results in improved fuel consumption and power delivery.
  • Ethanol delivers 67% more energy than in takes to produce it.
  • AUD115 million of capital expenditure went directly into Queensland companies for the construction of the DBRL plant.


Ethanol will cause the cost of food to increase in Australia.

Ethanol produced from sorghum and other grains consumes only the starch content of the grain. The energy and protein rich by-product goes back into the food chain as animal feed.

70% of the grain is low nutritional-content starch and 30% is solids that gets returned as animal feed. All of the high value protein in the sorghum is retained, and all the remaining nutritional components, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins and minerals are preserved and recycled back into the feed industry.

Ethanol has a lower energy density and hence reduces vehicle fuel economy.

Theoretically E10 fuel consumption is approximately 1-3% higher, however this is almost always offset by being 3cents per litre cheaper at the bowser than unleaded fuel.

Further, the real world experience is that reduced fuel consumption is a non-issue, in fact, the increase in octane results in improved fuel consumption, because modern cars adapt the tuning of their engines to take advantage of the higher octane.

Ethanol consumes more energy during production than it produces. Petroleum distillates have a negative energy balance. Petrol delivers 23% less energy than is required to produce it!  Ethanol on the other hand has a positive energy balance. On average, ethanol delivers 67% more energy than it takes to produce it (USDA).
Ethanol damages car engines. Contrary to popular belief, ethanol does not dissolve the metal in car engines. Some rubber components in pre-1986 cars may harden but all vehicles manufactured after 1986 are approved to use E10. Millions of flex fuel vehicles in the USA actually use E85 which is 85% ethanol and 15% unleaded petrol.
Ethanol production requires subsidies to remain viable. The ethanol industry receives virtually no subsidies compared to the billions of dollars of subsidies enjoyed by the petroleum industry. The ethanol industry does not currently pay excise, an incentive used worldwide to encourage development. In Australia the industry will start to pay excise on an energy basis from 2011; this is in line with all other transport fuels [Energy Grants (Cleaner Fuels) Act 2004].
Ethanol has a net positive carbon footprint. Actually, the carbon footprint of ethanol production is almost neutral; when DBRL captures carbon dioxide the footprint may become net negative. DBRL has completed its own carbon Life Cycle Analysis, and found that there is a 20% lower CO2 footprint compared to petrol.
Ethanol cannot replace petroleum fuels on a sustainable basis. The truth is that ethanol is “grown every year” in the field while petroleum fuels are fixed, finite and running out! And whilst agreeing ethanol cannot totally replace petroleum fuels, it and other renewable fuels can make a very significant contribution to dwindling and expensive world fuel supplies.
Ethanol from second generation feed-stocks is imminent. 2nd gen ethanol is still a developing field and a more expensive pathway for Ethanol production; first generation production lays down the building blocks and helps to develops the market.