About Ethanol

GHG Reductions & Air Quality

In 2015, our renewable ethanol transport fuel achieved 64% GHG savings compared to petrol, thereby reducing Europe’s annual GHG emissions by 6 million tonnes - equivalent to the annual emissions of 5 million new cars.

Europe’s transport emissions have increased by 36% since 1990 and account for 26% of total EU GHG emissions. Transport is now the biggest source of GHG emissions in the EU and is the only sector in Europe whose GHG emissions have continued to rise compared to 1990 levels. Solutions are urgently needed to address this. Biofuels are proven to be one of the most commercially viable carbon abatement solutions for transport in the short to medium term.

European renewable ethanol has high GHG savings

Renewable ethanol, which can be mixed with petrol and sold as a transport fuel, is a cost-effective and readily available means of decarbonising transport. In 2015, European ethanol achieved certified and audited average 64% GHG savings compared to petrol, thereby reducing Europe's annual GHG emissions by 6 million tonnes - equivalent to the annual emissions of 4 million new cars, or 1.4% of Europe’s total car fleet.

Ethanol still has substantial net GHG savings even after taking into account any potential ILUC emissions. Furthermore, the use of ethanol makes petrol’s combustion more efficient thereby improving fuel efficiency. However, the structure of the European fuels market is complex and limits the amount of GHG emission savings that can be achieved in transport.

With the right regulations in place, Europe can achieve substantial cuts in GHG emissions. The EU-wide roll-out of E10 (a petrol-ethanol fuel blend containing up to 10% ethanol) would reduce Europe’s transport emissions by 15 million tonnes - equivalent to the annual emissions of 10 million new cars, or 4% of Europe’s total car fleet.

Europe’s air quality is in decline

In 2014, 17 EU Member States were found to be in breach of their air quality targets. Poor air quality is a major cause of increased respiratory disease and therefore has a major negative impact on human health for many thousands of people across Europe, particularly in urban areas.

Over-reliance on diesel as a transport fuel in cities is a key source for this worsening air pollution in urban areas. Policy makers therefore need to act in order to meet their EU air quality legal obligations. Greater use of petrol blended with renewable ethanol, such as E10 and E20, will lessen air quality problems associated with diesel use and at the same time reduce the GHG emissions associated with petrol use.

Ethanol-petrol blends are a solution

Petrol blended with higher levels of ethanol has lower levels of emissions than diesel or non-blended petrol fuels. This is because ethanol contains more than one third oxygen, which, when added to petrol, leads to a more complete combustion of fuel in the engine, resulting in fewer toxic particulate emissions and making it safer for humans to breathe. Adding ethanol to petrol at higher levels, such as E20, reduces petrol's GHG, CO and HC emissions significantly.

Many additives commonly used in petrol to increase octane levels contain carcinogens, such as benzene, which are highly toxic and harmful to humans. Renewable ethanol is a high-octane fuel additive, which improves engine efficiency and is a substitute for benzene, while also being virtually sulphur-free.

For more information about the benefits of ethanol, please click here.

Key Facts

  • Europe’s transport emissions have increased by 36% since 1990 and account for 26% of total GHG emissions in the EU
  • As such, transport is the biggest source of GHG emissions in the EU
  • In 2015, European ethanol achieved 64% average GHG savings compared to petrol, thereby reducing Europe's annual GHG emissions by 6 million tonnes - equivalent to the annual emissions of 4 million new cars, or 1.4% of Europe’s total car fleet
  • The EU-wide roll-out of E10 would reduce Europe’s transport emissions by 15 million tonnes - the equivalent to the annual emissions of 10 million new cars off, or 4% of Europe's total car fleet