Gasoline Octane Improvers/Oxygenates
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Published: June 2012
This report focuses on blending agents incorporated into gasoline mainly to raise the octane value of the fuel and to reduce harmful vehicle emissions.
Gasoline octane improvers/oxygenates include three major compounds:
- Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE)
- Ethyl tertiary-butyl ether (ETBE)
The following pie chart shows world consumption of fuelethanol in gasoline:
Ethanol was the largest-volume gasoline octane improver/oxygenate used in the world in 2011. In recent years, ethanol use has grown significantly in the United States and Brazil, and to a lesser extent in Western Europe, for several reasons:
- Boosts octane levels.
- Increases combustion efficiency, helps reduce air pollutants.
- Ethanol made by fermentation is a renewable resource.
- Is biodegradable in surface water, groundwater and soil.
- Extends gasoline supplies.
- Decreases emissions of greenhouse gases, although the extent of reduction depends on the feedstock and other factors.
- Supports local agriculture. In the industrialized world, agriculture often has a strong political influence on national policies, so increased ethanol production in the United States is supported strongly by Midwestern corn growers. In the less industrialized world, stimulation of local agriculture is very attractive to government officials.
- Decreases dependency on imports of crude oil or gasoline if the country is not a producer of crude oil but is a producer of ethanol.
The next-leading gasoline octane improver/oxygenate is MTBE. Starting in the late 1970s, MTBE was the predominant gasoline oxygenate used worldwide because of its low cost, high octane value and easy incorporation into gasoline stock. However, in the late 1990s, MTBE was alleged to cause detrimental environmental impacts by contaminating water supplies. As a result, use in Japan ceased in 2003, and in the United States and Canada in 2006. Global use peaked in 2000.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of MTBE:
In 2011 about two-thirds of the global consumption of ETBE occurred in Western Europe with most of the remainder consumed in Japan and Eastern Europe. There are almost thirty ETBE plants in Europe, with production dominated by LyondellBasell and Total. Brazil is now a leading exporter of ETBE to Europe. Japan began using large quantities of ETBE in 2010 to meet its obligations under the 1996 Kyoto Accord. Two Japanese producers began operation in 2009–2012.