Ethanol-blend fuel cuts emissions

Researchers at the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology claim that the use of E20 fuel, which blends 20 per cent ethanol with petrol, reduces the tail-pipe emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide compared with traditional gasoline or E10 blends.

‘Currently, numerous commercially available petrol brands contain 10 per cent ethanol,’ said Brian Hilton, senior staff engineer at the centre and part of the research team.

‘There have been concerns raised that any increase in blend would negatively impact standard internal combustion engines, however our data shows that vehicle performance remained constant, while carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions decreased, even over E10 blends.’

The RIT team, which was also led by Brian Duddy, a senior programme manager at the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies, worked with the County of Monroe in New York State to test the use of E20 in 10 older petrol vehicles that were not designed for ethanol-fuel mixtures.

The study used the county’s service vehicles, which logged more than 100,000 miles on E20 fuel and were analysed periodically both for emissions and overall wear and tear on the vehicle.

The fleet showed an average emissions reduction for carbon monoxide of 23 per cent, as well as a 13 per cent reduction for hydrocarbon emissions compared with conventional gasoline.

The study results are being used by the US Environmental Protection Agency to promote the federal Renewable Fuel Standard programme.

This effort has increased the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel — from 9bn gallons (34.1bn litres) in 2008 to 36bn gallons by 2022.

The RIT team is continuing to work with Monroe County to convert its entire conventional petrol fleet to E20 and will provide additional analysis on the impact of ethanol on long-term vehicle durability.