Beyond its use as an automotive fuel, ethanol can be produced for use in beverages and in a variety of industrial applications. Making fuel ethanol and ethanol for industrial and beverage purposes are similar, though separate, processes. Industrial and beverage ethanol is produced by a certified Distilled Spirits Plant.
The personal care products industry is one of the largest users of industrial ethanol, or ethyl alcohol. Check the labels - hairspray, mouthwash, aftershave, cologne, and perfume all contain large amounts of alcohol by volume. Ethanol is also used in many deodorants, lotions, hand sanitizers, soaps, and shampoos.
Industrial alcohols are also used extensively in pharmaceuticals. The characteristics of ethyl alcohol make it a prime carrier for a whole spectrum of medicines including cough treatments, decongestants, iodine solution, and many others. As a solvent for the pharmaceutical industry, ethanol is useful for processing antibiotics, vaccines, tablets, pills, and vitamins.
Many cleaning products contain high volumes of industrial alcohol. A bottle of household disinfectant spray can contain nearly 80 percent ethanol.
Ethanol is used as a solvent in the manufacture of many other substances including paints, lacquer, and explosives. Industrial ethanol is used as a raw material for the production of vinegar and yeast, and similarly in chemical processing as a chemical intermediate.
Even food products like extracts, flavorings, and glazes contain large amounts of alcohol. The ethanol is also used in some liquid animal feed products as an energy source.
The production of fuel ethanol and the production of beverage ethanol are closely related. Though the process is now greatly advanced, people have been distilling ethanol for human consumption for centuries.
Pure beverage ethanol is often manufactured in the form of Grain Neutral Spirits, not for a final branded product. It is commonly sold in bulk to bottlers or other distillers who blend it or package it as a final product. Familiar products like hard lemonades and iced teas and liquors like vodka generally use grain neutral spirits as the volume of the alcohol content.
Glacial Grain Spirits, the industrial ethanol arm of Benson, Minnesota's Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, is home to Shakers Original American Vodka, a noteworthy example of beverage ethanol production. The premium vodka is distilled from locally grown wheat. Learn more about Shakers Original American Vodka made at Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company.
Aviation Grade Ethanol (AGE-85)
Aviation Grade Ethanol (AGE-85) is a high-performance, 85 percent ethanol-blended fuel for use in any reciprocating engine aircraft. AGE-85 is beginning to replace 100 octane low lead aviation gasoline (avgas), which has been the standard leaded gasoline for aviation since World War II.
Though avgas is the single largest contributor of lead in the atmosphere today, the Environmental Protection Agency has allowed its use until a suitable unleaded replacement can be found. More than 300 million gallons of avgas are used each year by the piston engine fleet in the United States - including aircraft made by companies like Piper, Cirrus, and Cessna.
AGE-85 offers a substantial improvement in performance for these aircraft, producing at least 12 percent more horsepower and torque at typical cruising power. Lower operating temperatures are also achieved, with engines tending to run 50 to 100 degrees cooler than similar settings on avgas. Because this fuel causes considerably less buildup of combustion byproducts in the engine, the time between engine overhauls is greater and maintenance costs are lower.
Supplemental type certifications (STC), required through the Federal Aviation Administration, are beginning to be secured for AGE-85. Through comprehensive testing on a 1962 Cessna 180, this registration has been obtained for C-180s and C-182s. Work is being completed on a 1982 Mooney 201 and a Grumman Ag Cat to expand certification to the experimental aviation and aerial applicator communities. With ongoing testing and further approval, AGE-85 can become a solid replacement for the leaded avgas of the past.