Ethanol is often referred to as ‘ethyl alcohol’ or simply ‘alcohol’. It can have two origins: synthetic ethanol is made from petrochemical or fossil feedstock (i.e. oil derivatives, coal) and agricultural ethanol is made from sugar and starch crops (e.g. sugar cane, sugar beet, maize, wheat, rye, potatoes, etc).
There are three markets for ethanol in Europe – beverages, fuels and industrial applications. Industrial applications include important end uses such as:
- pharmaceutical manufacture
- cosmetics and toiletries
- detergents and cleaning products
- printing inks
- paints and coatings
- screenwash and deicers for the automotive industry
- biocides and other medical uses
- production of important chemical intermediates, such as for polymers and plastics
These, and other downstream industries depend upon industrial ethanol to ensure safety, comfort, and convenience to consumers’ everyday lives.
Agricultural ethanol can be used in all sectors. By contrast, synthetic ethanol consumed in Europe is employed uniquely in the industrial market. No synthetic ethanol goes into alcoholic beverages or fuel.
Sustainable Development concerns wealth generation, social harmony and environmental protection. Its most widely accepted definition is ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
European industrial ethanol is important because it helps to ensure security of supplies for vital downstream user industries, and can be manufactured using a variety of raw material feedstocks.