This article contains information about the production of ethanol, the main component of E85 biofuel. Both the production and usage of ethanol as fuel have various positive implications for the economy and the environment.
Ethanol is domestically produced
Ethanol, the main component of E85 fuel, is domestically produced mostly from domestically grown corn and plant biomass. The Midwest region has the largest production of corn, providing suitable areas for ethanol refineries. Ethanol is produced in 27 states, the largest of which are Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, and South Dakota located in the Midwest.
The production of ethanol fuel domestically provides security, sustainability, and wealth. While more than 68,000 jobs were directly associated with the ethanol industry in 2019, the positive economic impact that comes from domestic production and choice ripples through the nation’s supply chain to benefit us all. All told, the ethanol industry created $23.3 billion in household income, whilst also contributing $43 billion to the nation’s GDP.
The United States is the no.1 ethanol producer in the world. Currently ,the U.S. produces nearly 16 billion gallons of ethanol, which is roughly 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply. Domestic energy production creates a buffer to reduce fluctuation and the impacts of global crises on the supply and cost of fuel.
E85 is produced from plant materials by way of a biochemical process that converts starch to sugars, which then ferment into alcohol. Since these materials are already present in domestic agriculture, E85 is not dependent upon limited or rapidly depleting resources.
The production method of ethanol depends on the type of feedstock used. The process is shorter for starch- or sugar-based feedstocks than for cellulosic feedstocks.
Most ethanol in the United States is produced from starch-based crops by dry- or wet-mill processing. Dry-milling is a process that grinds corn into flour and ferments it into ethanol with co-products of distillers grains and carbon dioxide usable for the food and beverage industries. Wet-mill plants primarily produce corn sweeteners, along with ethanol and several other co-products (such as corn oil and starch). Wet mills separate starch, protein, and fiber in corn prior to processing these components into products, such as ethanol.
Making ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks—such as grass, wood, and crop residues—is a more involved process than using starch-based crops. There are two primary pathways to produce cellulosic ethanol: biochemical and thermochemical. The biochemical process involves a pre-treatment to release hemicellulose sugars, followed by hydrolysis to break cellulose into sugars. Sugars are fermented into ethanol and lignin is recovered and used to produce energy to power the process. The thermochemical conversion process involves adding heat and chemicals to a biomass feedstock to produce syngas, which is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Syngas is mixed with a catalyst and reformed into ethanol and other liquid co-products.
These new technologies can extract even more ethanol from these and other resources, making production even more efficient.