Bioethanol is a clear, colourless liquid with a characteristic smell. Most people will recognize the smell, as it is a kind of spirit or so-called pure alcohol (which, however, one cannot drink!).
Bioethanol was previously produced by fermentation and distillation and was based on grain or corn (1st-generation bioethanol). This production was heavily criticized because it was using up food products. In contrast, 2nd-generation bioethanol is normally produced from corn or straw stalks. Maabjerg Energy Center is planning to use straw.
Bioethanol is by no means a new invention. Henry Ford thought it was "the fuel of the future" and designed his famous Model T to be able to run on pure bioethanol, which also made it easy for the first car-owners to refuel at home straight from their own “moonshine” distillery.
Bioethanol is already being used as an additive in petrol. An example is Statoil Bio95, which can be used by cars without needing to make alterations, and can replace 95 octane unleaded petrol.
Bioethanol is normally sold as a blend containing, for example, 5 percent ethanol and 95 percent petrol which is known as E5. Modern petrol-fuelled cars can run on a petrol/ethanol mixture up to E10 without problems. In some countries, such as Sweden, petrol stations sell E85, which, however, cannot be used by ordinary car engines.
Bioethanol provides 34 percent less energy per litre than ordinary petrol. This increases the vehicle´s fuel consumption (fewer miles per gallon / km per litre). An E10 mixture, however, will increase fuel consumption by only approximately 3 percent, while E85 increases it by about 25 percent.
According to the American Energy Agency, bioethanol releases 19 – 86 percent less CO2 when burned, depending on the production method used. Maabjerg Energy Center aims to produce cellulose-based 2nd-generation bioethanol which gives the optimal 86 percent effect.
Bioethanol is compulsory. Denmark has joined an EU requirement that at least 5.75 percent of the petrol must be replaced by biofuel (meaning bioethanol) from 2012 on. The Danish Governmental “Energy strategy 2050” is joining the EU target of attaining 10 percent by 2020. A vision for 2030 is to increase the target to 25 percent.