What Ethanol is Made Of
Ethanol is a liquid alcohol that is manufactured by the fermentation of a wide variety of biological materials. These materials include grains such as wheat, barley, corn, wood, and sugar cane. http://www.nrel.gov/lab/pao/biomass energy.html
In Canada, agricultural crops - particularly grains - are likely to be used because they have both high productivity and high levels of carbohydrates needed for ethanol manufacture.
Ethanol is best produced from lower value grains such as barley, corn and feed wheat. Higher value “bread” wheats would remain in ample supply for export sales, when Canada begins major ethanol manufacturing. Also, poor quality (weather damaged, immature) grains which are less suitable for either human or livestock use are excellent for ethanol production.
Corn and starch based crops are the most common medium used in ethanol production. This indicates that once ethanol is in high demand, the prices of these crops will increase. For this reason other alternatives are being studied. Among these is the use of domestic cellulosic biomass feedstocks such as herbaceous and woody plants, agricultural and forestry residues, and a large portion of municipal solid waste and industrial waste streams. http://www.ott.doe.gov/pdfs/ethanol.pdf http://www.ott.doe.gov/pdfs/cell ppr.pdf
Temeco Enterprises, a pulp and paper producer in Quebec started in 1991 to produce ethanol from forest waste. As the technology and economics improve for ethanol production from these materials, they would be expected to become an increasingly important base for ethanol production in Canada. However, excessive amounts of crop residue should not be removed from farmland so that they can continue to build soil organic-matter levels. (http://www.greenfuels.org/ethafood.html)
What Ethanol is used for
Ethanol is miscible (mixable) in all proportions with water and with most organic solvents. It is useful as a solvent for many substances and in making perfumes, paints, lacquer, and explosives. Alcoholic solutions of nonvolatile substances are called tinctures; if the solute is volatile, the solution is called a spirit. http://www.comalc.com/fuel ethanol.htm
Commercial Alcohols have grown to be the largest manufacturer and supplier of industrial grade alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) in Canada. Its 1700 customers use the product in industrial applications (such as solvents, detergents, paints, printing inks, photo-chemical applications, latex processing, dyes, etc.), the beverage market, medicinal, pharmaceutical and food products and is the sole Canadian manufacturer and supplier to the fuel market in central and eastern Canada. (http://www.comalc.com/information.htm)
Table 1: Summary of products that can be made from ethyl alcohol (ethanol).