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What is Oxygenated Fuel?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Oxygenated fuel is nothing more than fuel that has a chemical compound containing oxygen. It is used to help fuel burn more efficiently and cut down on some types of atmospheric pollution. In many cases, it is credited with reducing the smog problem in major urban centers. It can also reduce deadly carbon monoxide emissions.

This type of fuel works by allowing the gasoline in vehicles to burn more completely. Because more of the fuel is burning, there are fewer harmful chemicals released into the atmosphere. In addition to being cleaner burning, it also helps cut down on the amount of non-renewable fossil fuels consumed.

Oxygenated fuel has a number of different additives that can be inserted in order to produce the desired effect. For many years, MTBE was a common additive for this type of. However, MTBE was later found to be harmful to groundwater and has since been outlawed as a gasoline additive in some countries.

In more recent years, ethanol has become the additive of choice for oxygenated fuel in many places around the world. In the United States, it is produced mainly from corn. In Brazil, sugar is the crop of choice for producing ethanol. Research continues to look at ways to use other products for the manufacturing of ethanol. For example, switchgrass is targeted as the next generation ethanol oxygenated fuel.

In addition to MTBE and ethanol, a number of other chemical compounds could be added to fuel to produce the desired effects. However, MTBE and ethanol are the most common, with ethanol surging in recent years.

In the United States, most vehicles are designed so they can run on a 10-percent mixture of ethanol to regular gasoline with no problems. However, some automobiles are capable of running on a mixture that is 85-percent ethanol.

Some have criticized oxygenated fuel additives, and ethanol in particular, claiming the net benefit is overstated. Using corn, for example, has pushed the prices of the crop up to record levels in the commodities markets. That has led to an increase in some food prices, critics charge, as the most common basic feed for livestock is grain produced from corn. Others complain that oxygenated fuel reduces gas mileage and believe the benefit gained from supplementing fossil fuels is nearly all lost in the reduced gas mileage.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Alchemy — On Dec 11, 2010

@ Chicada- Algae biofuels are still a ways away from commercialization. There are still significant barriers to creating algal fuels that can compete in price and create net zero emissions. Algal biofuels offer lots of promise as a green fuel, but it will probably take ate a minimum five more years of development until they can be profitable and environmentally friendly.

By chicada — On Dec 11, 2010

This is a great article. I always wondered why they added 10% ethanol to gasoline. What is stopping gas stations from substituting algae fuels in place of the corn based ethanol used to oxygenate gasoline? I read in the paper that millions in grants were just given out for production of algae biofuels. Why has this fuel source not hit the market yet?

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