1. What is bioethanol

Bioethanol is a relatively new word. It became widely used about 15 years ago in order to distinguish the ethyl alcohol obtained by the biochemical processing of plant raw materials. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) can be obtained in a purely chemical way – from ethylene. However, this ethanol will no longer be “environmentally friendly” as it has been developed from fossil, non-renewable hydrocarbons. Burning such ethanol leads to an increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere as well as combustion of natural gas and oil. But the burning of bioethanol emits carbon dioxide which is considered as not causing global warming, because it recently has been extracted from the atmosphere by plants. Besides, producing ethylene from ethanol for fuel purposes is economically impractical. That’s why the term “bioethanol” has spread at the time when there was widespread concern about the consequences of anthropogenic climate change of the planet.

To mitigate the consequences of impending climate change, international organizations, primarily the United Nations, initiated the development of the “Framework Convention on Climate Change”, which was signed in 1992 by 155 countries of the world. In 1997 in Kyoto (Japan) a protocol was adopted, which obliged countries supporting the Convention to take the commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide). By 2008, emissions should be reduced by 5% from 1990 levels, and by 2010 – 5.2%. Countries with different level of economic development have undertaken various quantitative commitments depending on their economies’ consumption of fossil fuels. An economic incentive mechanism for reducing emissions had been proposed and implemented.

In December 2009 at the Copenhagen Summit, world leaders decided to continue the fight against climate warming by further increasing the share of biofuels for an energetic balance – up to 20% by 2020. Meaning the development of biofuels and other clean energy sources production, Barack Obama said, “… America will fulfill its obligations – reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the region by 17% until 2020 and by over 80% until 2050 …”. World’s leading countries intend to spend 10 bln. U.S. dollars for programs that promote biofuels production in developing countries by 2012 and spend 100 billion. until 2020.


Bioethanol is the name of commercial product that is listed on the stock exchanges. Following the directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 May 2003 #30 “On the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport” following definition of the term is given: “bioethanol” – ethanol produced from biomass and/or the biodegradable fraction of waste, to be used as biofuel. This commercial product contains at least 99% of the chemical – ethanol (ethyl alcohol) in its composition. Interest in ethanol as a fuel, originated much earlier than mankind noted global warming. It was conditioned by deficiency of petroleum fuel in several countries and the availability of significant resources for the production of bioethanol. We are talking primarily about Brazil which government began to encourage the use of bioethanol as a fuel component for spark ignition engines. Then, the United States, Canada and the countries of Europe began to connect to the process of partial replacement of petroleum motor fuel with bioethanol. Today this business has gone far enough to become one of the important directions of the world economy development. Increasing the production of bioethanol crops required expansion of renewable carbonaceous raw material – sugar cane, corn and other cereals. There had begun the production of “flexible” spark ignition engines that are adapted to the consumption of fuels containing up to 95% bioethanol and diesel engines running on a 90% bio-ethanol fuel.

In 2011, there were produced 90 million m3 of fuel bioethanol and 15 million m3 not for fuel purpose. Materials: corn – 55% sugar cane – 34%, molasses – 6%, wheat – 3.5% (see. Fig.). The leaders in producing fuel bioethanol are the United States (about 42 million m3) and Brazil (32 million m3).

Ukraine – a country with 46 million population consumes 4.5 million tons of petrol a year. Domestic production of raw materials – oil and gas condensate – provides only 20% of this amount, the rest of the gasoline is produced from imported oil or imported from neighboring countries.

Gasoline dependence of the country can be significantly reduced by the production and use of alternative fuels, such as bioethanol. Today, despite considerable mobility of prices, the most economically attractive raw material for its production is corn – the traditional culture of Ukraine from 1950s.

The ability to create biofuel industry appeared after the law 1391-VI “on Promotion of Biological Fuels Production and Use” came into force on May 21, 2009. If ethanol production was a state monopoly before, the new law allowed its production by enterprises of all forms of ownership. In addition, ethanol-containing fuel exempted from excise duty if they contain less than 30% of hydrocarbons.

As of December 2011, the country has 5 factories for the production of ethanol-containing additives to the gasoline with a total average annual output of 36 thousand tons. Three of these factories are owned by the state, but leased to private companies and two are private.


Investors’ interest in this type of business appeared only after the gasoline at the gas stations overcame price level of 9.5 … 11 hryvnia (1.25 … 1.35 USD) per liter. The cost price of ethanol-containing additives on the mentioned companies is 0.7 … 0.8 USD per liter. When mixed with cheap straight-run or natural gasoline, they provide a quite decent A-95 type gasoline with a low content of sulfur and aromatic hydrocarbons.


Generally, in Ukraine, bioethanol already substitutes about 0,7% of gasoline hydrocarbons volume, which is 0,4% in energy terms. Compared with the European Union, which achieved 3.5% by 201, it is a little, but Europe came to this figure in 7 years, starting with the 2003/96/EC directive.


So far, the raw material for all fuel ethanol in the Ukraine is a molasses – a byproduct of sugar beet production. This is because the molasses, despite periodic price spikes, currently is the cheapest raw material for ethanol-containing additives. Producing 30 thousand tons of ethanol-containing components a year used 120 thousand tons of molasses.

Unfortunately, this source of raw material becomes more and more exhausted every year. Considering that molasses is a raw material for many other major industries – from bakery yeast to food components, the potential of “molasses biofuels” production is unlikely to reach more than 100 thousand tons per year.


Probably, until you reach the level of production of 80 … 100 thousand tons of fuel bioethanol a year, above which “molasses resource hunger” will be felt, there will be no transition to grain raw material. But the most far-sighted and fund possessing manufacturers of ethanol-fuel components have already begun to redesign and retool their capacities for working with the grain.


Created conditions offer the prospect of investing in the sphere of production and sales of bio-ethanol fuels and fuel based on it. Existing enterprise in Ukraine had been remade from the old distilling plants and use energy-consuming technologies and equipment of three-four decades old. It is necessary to begin the construction of new, technologically innovative bioethanol plants with the lowest production costs and to enter the market with more competitive products.

When designing and constructing the new plant, it is necessary to use technologies and equipment available in the global market, that allow to reduce energy consumption per unit of production by almost halve.


  1. The use of bioethanol

Ethanol itself cannot be considered as a finished motor fuel. In modern engines for transport and agricultural machinery it is necessary to apply standardized fuel compositions that meet certain parameters set out in the relevant national and/or international standards. Car manufacturers produce engines adapted for such fuels and refuse guarantees when using different fuel blends. Until the ethanol content in gasoline-ethanol fuel does not exceed about 10% (E10 fuel type), its characteristics vary slightly and now consumers (for example, in the United States) are not even warned of the presence of ethanol in gasoline. The only problem that may arise in this case is a phase stability of the fuel – the possibility of exfoliation at low temperatures and by contact with water. Therefore, the distribution of such fuels requires a certain level of technological culture, which is not always achievable in the post-Soviet countries.

Fuels containing more than 30% ethanol in a mixture with hydrocarbons are more stable, but with increasing proportion of ethanol, fuel characteristics differs more from those of the standards for conventional gasolines. It is necessary to produce a certain adaptation of engines and/or enter additional fuel components ‘customizing’ its properties to meet the requirements of the standards.

Ethanol-hydrocarbon fuel blends are usually denoted by the letter E and the number corresponding to the percentage of ethanol in the blend. For example, E10 fuel contains about 10% ethanol and E85 – up to 85% ethanol. There are definitions Low Blend Fuel, High Blend Fuel in the foreign literature (fuel blend with a low – 5 … 15% ethanol content, and high – 60 … 95% ethanol content). Currently all known manufacturers adapted automobiles to consume Low Blend Fuels with ethanol content up to 10%.

In Western Europe, the US and Brazil were implemented fuels with ethanol content of 70 … 95, branded E85 – E95. Many automakers have already got engines adapted for their use. Vehicles with such engines called FFV (Fuel Flexible Vehicle), because they are able to use fuel with any ethanol content.

In the US, fuel mixed with ethanol conventionally classified as following:

E95 – denatured fuel ethanol. According to ASTM 4806 it must contain at least 92% of ethanol, and 2 … 5% of denaturants – gasoline or its components, and the rest are additives.

E85 – «Flex Fuel» according to ASTM D 5798. It is divided into three categories by the minimum ethanol content – 70%, 74% and 79%. The rest is gasoline and additives;

E10 – fuel should contain about 10% ethanol, the rest is gasoline and additives.

E85 and E95 fuels are stable when mixed with water up to 20 … 30% by volume, and the fuel E10 already exfoliates after adding 0.5% water if contains no special stabilizing additives. When talking about “exfoliation” of E10 ethanol-containing fuel, it is meant that the addition of small amounts of water leads to the appearance of turbidity and then a larger volume of the lower layer due to sorption of ethanol from water-ethanol hydrocarbon mixture. In this case, even drops of water on the bottom of the fuel tank “destabilize” mixed fuel and its exfoliation occurs.

According to Ukrainian law, gasoline is a fuel, which contains at least 70% of petroleum products and only gasoline applies to the excisable goods. Fuels containing up to 30% of non-hydrocarbon components called blended or mixed. Automobile fuel in which the proportion exceeds 30% ethanol are related to biofuels and are not subject to excise duty.

Better phase stability and relief from the excise duty have served for several Ukrainian companies an incentive for the development of mixed fuels with a share of hydrocarbons less than 70%.

The initiative for the organization of the production of ethanol-containing fuel additives comes, so to speak, “from below”. Investors’ interest in this type of business appeared only after the gasoline at the gas stations overcame price level of 9.5 … 11 hryvnia (1.25 … 1.35 USD) per liter. The cost price of ethanol-containing additives on the mentioned companies is 0.7 … 0.8 USD per liter. When mixed with cheap straight-run or natural gasoline, they provide a quite decent A-95 type gasoline with a low content of sulfur and aromatic hydrocarbons.


I deliberately do not use the term ‘bioethanol’ for the following reason. Bioethanol, according to a new national standard introduced on January 1, 2011 must contain at least 98.3% ethanol by volume and no more than 0.2% water. At the same time bioethanol belongs to excisable goods, although with a zero rate, but with all its regulation rules of production and sales:

The license for production

The tax position of the company.

Transportation escort.

Specific requirements for storage and accounting.

Registration of bank bills of exchange in the amount of excise duty on food alcohol (about 5 thousand. Dollars. US per cubic meter) when shipped to the consumer with a maturity of up to 90 days when using bioethanol for its intended purpose.


The state represented by the tax authorities relates to the production of biofuel additives with suspicion and it does not stimulate it despite the declarations of all the governments about the importance of the biofuel sector. The reason for bioethanol’s bad reputation is food alcohol. Tax administration workers often confuse the concept of “bioethanol as a commodity product” with “bioethanol as a chemical”. If any fluid contains a chemical “bioethanol” it does not mean that it is a commercial product called “bioethanol”, which must meet the requirements of the standard (DSTU). The same applies to the concepts of “ethyl alcohol” – a commodity product and a chemical. Most workers of administering authorities, whether consciously or not, confuse these concepts and put pressure on producers of ethanol-containing additives, so that they issue a license for the production of excisable goods.

The Russian standard on bioethanol is developed by the Technical Committee TC 31 “Petroleum fuels and lubricants”, and the Ukrainian is developed by the Technical Committee TC-61 “distillery products and yeast.” Ukrainian bioethanol standard code assigned by Commodity Code 22 – “Ethyl alcohol and alcoholic drinks”, but Russian and European is Code 38 – “Chemicals.”

In this situation, all manufacturers of ethanol-containing fuel additives avoid to produce bioethanol that meets national standards. They produce ethanol-containing products, which are not formally enters the commodity niche “Bioethanol” i.e. differs in composition from the requirements of state standard (DSTU).


Three of the listed plants sell their products to oil traders with its own network of gas stations. A-95 type gasolines that are implemented at the gas station, contain up to 15% ethanol, which replaces the expensive methyl tert-butyl ether. Also there is a fuel containing 40% ethanol under its own brands, such as “Pulsar-95”, “A-95ek”, “Ultimate-95”. “BioChemGroup” factory in Donetsk has organized its own production of A-95a biofuels containing more than 30% ethanol and successfully implements it. Figures show biofuel advertising leaflet distributed at gas stations.

Using as gasoline-ethanol fuel mixtures with an ethanol content of 10 … 70% requires a solution of three main issues:

Providing phase stability when mixed with regular gasoline and in contact with water (underproduct or sediment in the fuel tank).

Ensuring a stable combustion in the entire load range and the operating temperature of the vehicle (exception of “failures” and the problems of cold start).

Lowering the octane number of gasoline-ethanol mixture with an ethanol content of over 10% to an acceptable 95 … 100 units by research method.

Stability of gasoline-alcohol mixtures to exfoliation depends on the composition of gasoline, ethanol and the water content in the composition. With increasing concentration of aromatic compounds in gasoline, and increasing content of ethanol in the fuel cloud point (first stage exfoliation) is lowered. However, the amount of water in the mixture is the determining factor.

There is another way to improve the quality of gasoline-ethanol compositions – the production of additives directly during the manufacturing process of bioethanol. At the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics of NAS of Ukraine there were developed technologies that allow produce ethanol with a predetermined number of functional additives during rectification of the mash distillate, and then dehydrating the resulting fuel composition. With sufficiently high content of functional components it is possible to manage even without a deep dehydration of the product, because synthesized substances will provide the necessary stability of petrol-ethanol blends and solve the problems of the use of biofuels during the cold period.

This technology has already been implemented in one of the bioethanol plants in Ukraine by adding a chemical reactor for the synthesis of the required components in the distillation flow diagram. It is also possible to organize the production of ready-made biofuels on the basis of stable gasoline and ethanol with the functional components on the distilleries. This approach is most justified for solving conversion problem of “extra” distilleries of Ukraine.


An approximate composition of biofuels – see Fig. The main component is a stable gasoline – 50 … 69%, the rest is ethanol, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE – a component that prevents gasoline-ethanol mixtures exfoliation) and additives – anticorrosive, stabilizing. Such fuel is not subject to excise duty, as the hydrocarbon content in them is less than 70%.

There is also manufactured or sold E10 type blended fuels with bioethanol content of 10 … 15%. They are a subject to excise taxation, but manufacturers save on MTBE, replacing it with a cheaper bioethanol. Thus, the consumer is not informed of the ethanol presence in gasoline. The same applies to the European import gasoline, which contains up to 10% ethanol.



Generally, in Ukraine, bioethanol already substitutes about 0,7% of gasoline hydrocarbons volume, which is 0,4% in energy terms. Compared with the European Union, which achieved 3.5% by 201, it is a little, but Europe came to this figure in 7 years, starting with the 2003/96/EC directive.


S.Tsygankov, Ph.D.