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Ford researchers suggest using higher ethanol blends to boost the minimum octane number of regular-grade gasoline

Using higher volume blends of ethanol to leverage the alcohol’s inherent high octane rating to produce ethanol-gasoline blends with higher octane numbers could yield “substantial societal benefits”, according to a team of researchers from Ford Motor Company.

Currently, ethanol is blended into a gasoline blendstock formulated with lower octane rating such that the net octane rating of the resulting final blend is unchanged from historical levels. However, the high octane rating of ethanol could be used in a mid-level ethanol blend to increase the minimum octane number (Research Octane Number, RON) of regular-grade gasoline, J.E. Anderson and colleagues suggest in a new paper published in the journal Fuel.

Ethanol—and methanol—have some performance issues in gasoline blends, such as lower energy density than gasoline, potentially higher or lower vapor pressures, altered distillation properties, and potential for water-induced phase separation. However, they also offer a high research octane number (RON) and motor octane number (MON) as compared to gasoline. The alcohols also have a greater latent heat of vaporization than gasoline, which contributes to their higher RON values and provides additional charge cooling in direct-injection (DI) engines.

The octane number reflects the ability of a fuel to resist “knock”—resulting from premature autoignition—in spark-ignited engines, which can cause engine damage when severe.

Higher RON in the fuel blend would enable greater thermal efficiency in future engines through higher compression ratio (CR) and/or more aggressive turbocharging and downsizing, and in current engines on the road today through more aggressive spark timing under some driving conditions.

Using a linear molar octane blending model they had developed earlier to quantify RON potential from ethanol and blendstock, the team estimated that an increase of 4-7 points in RON are possible by blending in an additional 10–20%v ethanol above the 10% already present. Keeping the blendstock RON at 88 (which provides E10 with ∼92.5 RON), they estimated RON would be increased to 94.3 for E15 to as much as 98.6 for E30. Further RON increases may be achievable assuming changes to the blendstock RON and/or hydrocarbon composition, they suggested.

An increase in blendstock RON from 88 to 92 would increase the RON of E10 from 92.5 to 95.6, and would provide higher RON with additional ethanol content (e.g., RON of 97.1 for E15 to 100.6 for E30).

Under scenarios considered in the paper, the team estimated CR increases to be on the order of 1–3 CR-units for port fuel injection engines as well as for direct injection engines in which the greater evaporative cooling of ethanol can be fully utilized.


  • J.E. Anderson, D.M. DiCicco, J.M. Ginder, U. Kramer, T.G. Leone, H.E. Raney-Pablo, T.J. Wallington (2012) High octane number ethanol–gasoline blends: Quantifying the potential benefits in the United States, Fuel doi: 10.1016/j.fuel.2012.03.017

  • J. E. Anderson, U. Kramer, S. A. Mueller, and T. J. Wallington (2010) Octane Numbers of Ethanol− and Methanol−Gasoline Blends Estimated from Molar Concentrations, Energy & Fuels 2010 24 (12), 6576-6585 doi: 10.1021/ef101125c



We can make synthetic ethanol from natural gas and biomass without using any corn grain at all. Nothing to it but to do it, however we continue with the same old same old.


why not use corn grain?.. its plentiful and keeps the farmers employed. Prior to corn ethanol the cost of corn was too low, US farmers needed government subsidies and 3rd world countries could not compete. I trust the farmers know how to conserve their soil and not pollute.

We could also use NG and coal to make synthetic fuels.. we also have plenty of both. At todays US prices for NG, synthetic fuels can be be made at a petroleum cost equivalency of $11 a barrel.

William Thomas

I'm not gonna say I said it first, but I'm sure I said that 5 years ago here, in response to naysers who keep saying "ethanol cannot replace gasoline" and the likes. The value of ethanol is to boost octane, not to replace gasoline. And it does help American farmers. On a related topic (that some thinktank research with $$$ funding will declare in a year or two) USE TREATED SEWAGE TO PRODUCE GMO CORN IN AGRIBUSINESS, and produce healthy corn in smaller 'organic' farms for human consumption.


If liquid fuels can be made from NG at $11/barrel and USA has plenty of cheap NG and Coal, why on Earth it is not being done instead of using food products to produce ethanol? Using corn had a direct effect on most food prices (i.e.up to 100% in the last 3 years). Sure it may be OK for the 3% of us who are farmers and the 3% with lots of $$$ but the other 94% has to go deeper and deeper in debt to feed the family.

More grain based liquid fuels is certainly not the way to pull out of current recession. To convert NG/Coal to liquid fuels and export food would be a much better win-win solution. Export more (food) and import less Crude Oil could fix the current growing huge trade deficits. USA will have to start using what it has plenty of and stop importing Crude to balance trade.


It's me again (WT). If you wanna to hear more on the bandwagon, "WE DO NOT NEED $40,000 eCars with a 200mi range, that go 80mph and seat 5 to replace conventional ICE vehicles. The Gov't needs to encourage Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV's), ie, fancy golfcarts, that have a 30mile range, at 35-45mph and seat 2 or 3 and sell for about $8000". Still not convinced? Ask a disabled person what they are zooming around in NOW. Some eWheelchairs already look like small cars.


Use the corn stalks to synthesize ethanol. Right now you can use corn stalks and cobs in the fermentation and distillation plants that we already have and the extra money for the stalks and cobs goes to the farmers in addition to the money for the corn grain.

Ethanol is an oxygenate, cities like L.A. require this to help reduce air pollution. If we use HEV/PHEV/EV we have even better air quality. This is not rocket science, but we lack the will to do what needs to be done because it is not profitable enough, it is just the right thing to do...that is not good enough in the U.S.

Dave R

Enthusiasts have been either mixing E85 with regular gas or even converting gas cars to E85 to take advantage of the higher octane rating for many years now.

Ditch the rarely used mid-grade 89 octane fuel at most stations for a 95+ octane higher ethanol blend and manufacturers can use this for increasing fuel economy and enthusiasts will pump it into their cars for the improved performance.

That will make everyone happy. :-)


I read that NO car maker recommends 89 octane, so make it blend at the pump. Select E5, E10, E15 or E85, depending on the vehicle.


I don’t understand; there ARE higher octane blends than the low (87 R+M/2) available at the pump.

Typically there are 2 (or 3) octane ratings at the pump, at something like 87, and 90 (or 87, 89, and 91) R+M/2, and the lowest ones are the cheapest.

Most cars are DESIGNED to allow use of the lower octane to reduce fuel cost.

Do they mean make a high octane blend that is priced the same as the low octane?

So, we should:
1. Phase out the low and use only the higher octane? or
2. Provide price supports to make the higher octane gas cost the same as the lower? or
3. Force all cars to have a CR that requires a high octane gas?

And what does this have to do with ethanol?

The logic of corn to fuel is questionable.

Higher octane is already available,

1. How long would it take until there are a significant number of ICEs that benefit from an increase in octane?

2. How much would it cost (per gal) to raise the octane with ethanol?

3. How does this compare to just using a higher octane base stock?


I can't believe that there is still people to defend corn ethanol, this the most inefficient way to make fuel and the most environmentally unfriendly way, unacceptable and unethical use of arable land as well as precious fertilizer and water. corn ethanol is a big NO NO, period ! there is other way to keep farmer busy than this horrendous waste of resources


I would use the stover from feed/food corn and plant miscanthus tall grasses around the corn fields to use the fertilizer run off. That way you get more out of the fertilizer rather than have it run into the rivers and Gulf of Mexico.


"If liquid fuels can be made from NG at $11/barrel and USA has plenty of cheap NG and Coal, why on Earth it is not being done instead of using food products to produce ethanol?"

Shell and SASOL are studying two plants in Louisiana, each one cost $10 billion to make.. planning will take a couple of years to make sure its a prudent investment (ie. is NG really plentiful?, will oil remain expensive? )

Henry Gibson

The value of ethanol as an automobile fuel is to make the producers rich at the expense of the general public and to support the oil speculators by pretending that there is an alternate to fossil fuels when every oil company knows that there is not enough land area to produce a substantial part of even only the energy provided by petroleum in the world.

The production of ethanol in the US is subsidised by tariffs and grants as it is in some other countries as well, but the energy returns indicated by the official US government site indicate that for 100 units of fossil fuel energy, 120 units of energy as ethanol is produced.

Right now natural gas is very cheap in the US and in the new Bakken wells in North Dakota over 30 percent of the natural gas is wasted at times. At one point a standard shipping container sized natural gas to methanol conversion machine was mentioned, but also a very cheap unit can be made to convert natural gas to carbon black. Small gas turbines, Bladen jets perhaps, could be used to burn the gas to run the equipment or feed the grid. Infinia could reverse operate their solar Stirling engine to make LNG. One Japanese company made a stirling powered stirling airconditioner that operated on gas.

The Stirling company in the Netherlands that makes units to liquify air and nitrogen proposed a new version of their machine that could have easily been modified to produce liquid air directly by burning natural gas. Their present machines could easily make LNG and keep it cold until trucks could collect it, and Capstone turbines could provide the power for them. All the oil field trucks that run on diesel can use part LNG when available. When fed into a diesel engine with air, natural gas can be burned to a very high percentage of the fuel and many engine controllers adapt automatically.

All new spark ignited automobiles should now be built with the proper tanks and fuel system so that methanol, ethanol, n-butanol and gasoline can be used with a provision also to use natural gas in the intake air as a part of the fuel. Many automobile engines now have only four cylinders and it would make many of them more efficient if they were electrically operated and this could get more energy out of the high octane methanol and ethanol and natural gas but also allow more efficient running on any fuel. One company was reported on this site as having a method of starting an engine without a starter motor by controlled fuel injectors and spark and this is even easier with electric valves. ..HG..


"not enough land area to produce a substantial part"

You keep repeating the same phrase, but the U.S. has 500 million acres of grazing land the is not used. 100 million acres planted in miscanthus produces 4000 gallons of synthetic fuel per acre. (Cool Planet Fuels)

That totals 400 billion gallons of fuel, we use about 100 billion gallons of gasoline, 50 billion gallons of diesel and 50 billion gallons of jet fuel per year in the U.S. (estimate numbers) So this alone shows that we can to this with the land that is suppose to be insufficient.


We could easily feed a 100% fleet of Volts with US made ethanol, and sell our oil production to the rest of the world. We can do it..


We can make 10% ethanol to blend with some percentage of synthetic gasoline, say 10% blended with refined gasoline and increase the percentage of synthetic gasoline over time. We can make synthetic fuels with ICGG coal plants converted from the ones we already have. Lots of moves we can make.

Jim McLaughlin

Ethanol is not a waste of corn compared to growing beef. Most corn (and soybeans) in the US are fodder for cattle, not food for humans. Growing beef wastes 90% of the food value of corn according to my freshman Biology 101 class at the U of Minnesota in the 1970's.

When ethanol is made from corn, what is left over is an excellent feedstock for cattle, since the carbohydrates which make cattle sick are removed, but all the vitamins, minerals and roughage remain. Farmers make more money on the "distillers grains" fed to cattle than they do on the ethanol distillation, which can be a break-even operation.

Same goes for soybeans. The oil must be removed before feeding soy to cattle or it makes the cattle sick, and we had something on the order of 500,000 gallons per year of surplus soy oil before the biodiesel industry took off.

Bio fuels are a reasonable compliment to the petroleum fuel supply, to the contrary of a massive anti-biofuel propaganda effort that does not like the downward pressure on petroleum prices from alternatives.

But I drive an EV, you all can fight over the liquid fuels. Have fun. Hey howabout those prices? Wow.

Oh, and enjoy driving you gas powered SUV to the store to buy some beef, will ya?


The point of corn ethanol maany miss... simply because they are stupid is it converts natural gas and diesel both things we have alot of into a replacement for gasoline... something we wanted more of.


We would like to use natural gas directly in trucks and buses, but that is not always possible, it requires a conversion of the vehicle.

It seems obvious that you want to use liquid fuels in the vehicles, as they were designed, rather than change all of them. Synthetic fuels can be blended with refined fuels and used in all the vehicles now on the road with NO modification.

That should be such an obvious advantage that there would be no argument, however there is continuous argument from people that want to argue about anything and everything in a futile attempt to derive some supposed "truth".


Actually, I argue for using NG in vehicles AND against conversions. We don't need to convert all the vehicles now on the road, or any of them for that matter, because they all have a limited lifespan and will need to be replaced in time. Simply require NEW vehicles to be made with NG in mind and normal wear & tear will have the "fleet" converted (through replacement) long before we run out of liquid fuels.


There have been dual fuel trucks for decades and the cost advantage has been there all along, but VERY few are sold to replace the older trucks.

We can say what SHOULD be that does not happen or we can take steps that are more likely to happen and succeed. I am all for success in achieving the objective of less imported oil.


Gentlemen, how many of you graduated the kindergarten, but the high-school or more, if yes probably you heard that there is "no free lunch", and to move an object between two points (or more) one have to pay that energy, and if you will look to Hydro-Carbons, you will find gasoline among the best - compact and with low pollution...replacing it will generate usually more CO2 for the same power...methane and methanol may have some advantages at CO2 reduction, but have lots other disadvantages - those and more were presented in a book I found on kindle -Challenges of the future individual transportation, I can not say that I understand it all, pretty complicated, may be nor for kindle readers, but I got an idea...I'm still impressed of that.



You may learn that insulting people does not get relations off to a good start, just a bit of manners advice.


I find it amusing that SJC has essentially adopted my position that perennial grasses should be used as buffers around annual crops to capture eroded soil and nutrients.

SJC remains hopelessly optimistic on the prospects for biofuels (how much rainfall those 500 million acres of rangeland receive is beyond his innumerate consciousness), but eventually reality will intrude.


It is not "your" position, this was written up in papers long ago. Again, ego will be your down fall.

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