Understanding the Corrosive Nature of Ethanol Fuel

A person refueling their car with a green fuel nozzle at a gas station.

Ethanol blended fuel was initially embraced for its potential to reduce emissions and serve as an alternative to traditional gasoline. Now, it’s found in over 90% of gasoline sold. However, this widespread adoption has led to unexpected issues. This blog post will explore five significant challenges arising from the use of ethanol in fuel.

  1. Ethanol: Characteristics, Challenges, and Solutions;
  2. Is Ethanol Corrosive?;
  3. The Engine Risks of Ethanol Blended Gasoline;
  4. Ethanol’s Hygroscopic Nature: Mitigating Water-Related Issues;
  5. Ethanol-Induced Corrosion: Protecting Your Assets;
  6. The Impact of Ethanol on Fuel Degradation and Oxidation;
  7. Energy Efficiency in Ethanol Blended Fuels;
  8. Ethanol’s Role as a Microbial Growth Nutrient;
  9. Biobor EB: A Solution to Ethanol-Related Issues;
  10. Long-Term Impacts of Ethanol Fuel Usage;
  11. Ethanol-Related Damage to Fuel Systems and Equipment;
  12. Conclusion.

Ethanol: Characteristics, Challenges, and Solutions

SourcePrimarily derived from plant sources, such as corn and sugarcane.
OxygenateFunctions as an oxygenate, enhancing combustion and contributing to reduced emissions.
Energy ContentContains approximately one-third less energy than gasoline, impacting overall fuel efficiency.
Solvent PropertiesExhibits solvent properties, capable of dissolving certain materials, which can affect fuel system components.

Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, is a sustainable fuel derived from farm-grown resources like corn and sugarcane, among other biomass. Its use in the international fuel landscape, especially as a supplement to gasoline, has surged due to its eco-friendly profile. Ethanol’s contribution to fuel mixtures is multifaceted: it acts as an octane booster, warding off engine pinging, and as an oxygenating agent, enhancing the burn efficiency of fuel, thereby curtailing toxic emissions. The blend that’s most commonly available worldwide is E10, which incorporates a 10% ethanol to 90% traditional gasoline ratio.

However, the application of ethanol in fuels varies widely, with some countries experimenting with higher concentrations like E15 (15% ethanol) or even E85 (85% ethanol) for vehicles specifically designed to operate on high-ethanol content fuels. The use of ethanol is part of a broader strategy to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and lower the carbon footprint of transportation. Ethanol’s renewable nature, derived from plant materials, positions it as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional gasoline. It is also a significant component in the strategies of various governments and organizations aiming to achieve environmental targets and sustainable energy goals. Despite its benefits, the use of ethanol in fuel systems has led to discussions around its impact on engine performance, fuel efficiency, and compatibility with existing vehicle technologies, highlighting the ongoing evolution and adaptation in the field of renewable energy sources.

This unique fuel possesses distinctive characteristics. Notably, it is hygroscopic, absorbing moisture from the atmosphere, which can lead to storage challenges and accelerated corrosion in fuel tanks. The oxidation of ethanol produces corrosive byproducts, gradually damaging engine components. Additionally, due to its lower energy content compared to gasoline, engines require additional additives for equivalent performance.

Grasping the nature of ethanol is vital for forestalling engine complications. Keeping ethanol-enhanced fuel in an airtight vessel helps avert moisture buildup and maintains the integrity of the fuel. Adding Biobor EB, a fuel preservative, to your ethanol-infused fuel can protect against issues that arise with prolonged storage. For superior defense against the erosive tendencies of ethanol, turning to Biobor EB is indispensable. Tailored to combat moisture retention and the resultant rust in critical engine components like valves, pistons, and gaskets, Biobor EB delivers all-around security. Making educated choices about ethanol-mixed fuels and conducting consistent preventative upkeep, such as integrating Biobor EB, are critical measures in preventing engine troubles linked to ethanol-based fuels.

Challenges of Ethanol Use:

  • Corrosion: Ethanol can be corrosive to metals and degrade certain plastics and rubbers in fuel systems;
  • Water Absorption: Tends to attract and absorb water, leading to phase separation in fuel and potential engine problems;
  • Volatility: Ethanol-blended fuels can become less stable over time, especially when stored.
  • Compatibility: Not all engines are compatible with high-ethanol fuels, potentially leading to damage.

Solutions for Ethanol-Related Issues:

  • Additives: Products like Biobor EB can stabilize ethanol-blended fuels and extend their shelf life;
  • Regular Maintenance: Frequent checks and maintenance of fuel systems can mitigate ethanol-induced damage;
  • Proper Storage: Storing in airtight containers reduces water absorption and extends fuel life;
  • Engine Compatibility: Using ethanol-compatible engines and components to prevent damage and ensure efficiency.

Is Ethanol Corrosive?

A hand holding a blue fuel pump, dispensing fuel into a car's tank

Ethanol is often discussed in the context of its corrosive properties, particularly when blended with gasoline in fuels like E10, E15, or E85. The primary concern arises from ethanol’s chemical nature, which makes it more solvent-like compared to traditional gasoline. This solvent property enables ethanol to break down and deteriorate certain materials that are commonly found in fuel systems, such as rubber, certain plastics, and some metal components. Over time, this can lead to the degradation of hoses, seals, gaskets, and other vital parts of an engine’s fuel system. Additionally, ethanol’s affinity for water adds another layer of complexity. It can absorb moisture from the air, leading to increased water content in the fuel. This water-ethanol mixture can then cause phase separation, where the ethanol and water blend separates from the gasoline, reducing the fuel’s overall combustibility and potentially leading to starting and running issues in engines. The presence of water also heightens the risk of rust and corrosion in metal parts of the fuel system. Therefore, while ethanol itself is not corrosive in the traditional sense, its properties and interactions in fuel systems, especially when combined with moisture, can lead to corrosive effects that compromise the integrity and performance of engines. This is particularly notable in older vehicles and equipment not designed for ethanol-blended fuels, where the corrosive impact can be more pronounced.

The Engine Risks of Ethanol Blended Gasoline

Frequent utilization of gasoline mixed with ethanol can be detrimental to engine health, leading to considerable damage. Ethanol’s inherently corrosive nature and high solubility in water often lead to problems during storage. Continuous exposure to water within the fuel system may cause rust formation, energy loss, and numerous other issues. Additionally, ethanol-based fuels are susceptible to microbial infestations. Research has identified the occurrence of acetobacter bacteria in the fuel system, which generates acetic acid..

It’s vital to protect your engine by carefully selecting the fuel type, especially when it involves ethanol blends. Regular maintenance is critical to prevent damage from ethanol fuel and its by-products. Monitoring the fuel tank is also important, given ethanol’s tendency to absorb moisture from the air, which can cause water-related issues and possibly long-term storage challenges. Staying informed and taking preventive actions are crucial steps in reducing the potential hazards of using ethanol-mixed gasoline.

Utilizing Biobor EB, a corrosion-reducing agent, can effectively address some of these challenges. While it may not eliminate all engine issues associated with ethanol fuels, a combination of proper care, regular maintenance, and the consistent use of Biobor EB can significantly minimize the risk of encountering major troubles. To safeguard your vehicle, conduct regular inspections of the fuel system, staying updated on routine maintenance tasks. Periodically check for signs of corrosion, debris, or water accumulation, replacing components as necessary.

To prevent the clogging of your vehicle’s fuel system, it’s essential to add Biobor EB to each fuel refill. This practice shields the fuel lines and tank from impurities that could cause issues related to storage and water. Furthermore, consistently filling your gas tank, particularly during periods of prolonged storage, is crucial in reducing water buildup and avoiding phase separation. Phase separation occurs when ethanol blends with water, detaching from the gasoline and settling at the bottom of the tank. This can result in diminished engine performance, corrosion in the fuel system, and complications during storage, potentially leading to significant engine harm. Using Biobor EB in your fuel mixture helps maintain the blend of gasoline and ethanol, preventing these problems. By taking these precautionary steps, you can maintain your vehicle in excellent condition, even when using ethanol-based fuels.

Ethanol’s Hygroscopic Nature: Mitigating Water-Related Issues

The propensity of ethanol to attract moisture heightens the risk of water-related issues in fuel systems. Ethanol’s molecular structure, which readily bonds with water, can lead to increased levels of moisture in fuel. This bond typically holds in ethanol-fuel blends until the moisture content reaches a tipping point. Due to their compatibility, water and ethanol mix easily. Ethanol, being less dense than standard gasoline, usually stays blended in the fuel mixture unless it combines with a significant amount of water. The heavier water then pulls the ethanol out of suspension, causing it to settle at the bottom of the tank, a process known as phase separation. Studies show that even a small fraction of water, just 0.398% in the fuel, is enough to trigger this phenomenon.

The fuel left above this separation layer loses its enhanced octane quality provided by ethanol. Sometimes, only partial separation occurs, leading to cloudy fuel that may block filters and hinder engine performance. To counteract this, regular expulsion of water from the fuel system is necessary. Employing a versatile fuel additive like Biobor EB, which includes a demulsifier, can be crucial in preventing phase separation by disrupting water’s tendency to emulsify. Properly managing the moisture-absorbing characteristic of ethanol is key to safeguarding against water-induced complications in fuel systems.

Ethanol-Induced Corrosion: Protecting Your Assets

Ethanol exhibits corrosive properties, naturally engaging with oxygen in the air to generate acidic compounds that contribute to the corrosion of fuel system components and engine wear. The presence of both water and ethanol further accelerates corrosion across all metal types, with aluminum engine and fuel system parts particularly vulnerable to ethanol-induced corrosion. To mitigate the issues linked to ethanol corrosion, employing a corrosion inhibitor is crucial.

Extensive testing reveals that Biobor EB stands out as the optimal choice for safeguarding assets against corrosion. In accelerated corrosion tests, Biobor EB demonstrated its effectiveness in protecting metals, even in the most extreme circumstances. For independent test results, refer to the Practical Sailor Article. By acknowledging and addressing the corrosive nature of ethanol, utilizing Biobor EB as a corrosion inhibitor becomes a proactive measure in preserving the integrity of fuel system components and preventing engine wear.

The Impact of Ethanol on Fuel Degradation and Oxidation

The interaction of fuel with oxygen inevitably leads to degradation and oxidation, a phenomenon that adversely affects its stability and efficiency. This natural process reduces the fuel’s volatility, a key element for effective combustion, thereby influencing the performance of engines at startup and during operation. As the oxidation continues, it fosters the formation of gums and varnish, which can significantly hinder engine performance and even result in damage. The presence of ethanol in fuel intensifies this oxidation, accelerating the degradation process. This challenge is particularly pertinent in settings where fuel is stored for extended periods, such as in marine, agricultural, and seasonal equipment, as well as in vehicles that are not used regularly. To mitigate these effects, specially designed fuel additives are employed to improve the oxidation stability of ethanol-blended fuels. Typically, ethanol-blended fuels maintain their stability for approximately 90 days in ideal storage conditions. However, with the use of additives like Biobor EB, the lifespan and quality of these fuels can be significantly extended, maintaining stability for up to 18 months. These additives play a crucial role in safeguarding fuel from the negative impacts of oxidation and aging, thereby enhancing the longevity and reliability of fuel systems and engines in various applications.

Energy Efficiency in Ethanol Blended Fuels

Ethanol blended fuels, such as E10, which contains 10% ethanol, typically demonstrate a lower fuel economy – around 3% less – than conventional gasoline. This is primarily due to ethanol’s lower energy content; it has about 33% less energy per unit volume compared to gasoline. When the proportion of ethanol in fuel increases, as in E15 (15% ethanol) or E85 (85% ethanol), this gap in energy efficiency becomes even more pronounced. This reduction in energy efficiency can have broader implications, particularly in terms of consumption, operating costs, and environmental impact. For instance, vehicles running on higher ethanol blends may require more frequent refueling, leading to increased costs over time. Additionally, while ethanol is touted for its lower greenhouse gas emissions, the reduced energy efficiency of ethanol-blended fuels can offset some of these environmental benefits by requiring more fuel to travel the same distance.

However, there are ways to mitigate some of the efficiency losses associated with ethanol-blended fuels. Products like Biobor EB, a fuel additive, are designed to enhance the performance and efficiency of engines running on ethanol-blended fuels. By improving the combustion process and protecting the engine from ethanol-related issues, such as phase separation and corrosion, additives like Biobor EB can help maintain engine performance and fuel efficiency, even when using ethanol-blended fuels. This can be particularly beneficial for various types of vehicles and equipment, including those used in agriculture, boating, and other industries where ethanol-blended fuels are common. Therefore, while the energy efficiency of ethanol-blended fuels is inherently lower than that of standard gasoline, the use of specialized additives can play a vital role in optimizing performance and mitigating efficiency losses.

Ethanol’s Role as a Microbial Growth Nutrient

  • Ethanol, particularly when present in concentrations below 20%, as commonly found in many ethanol-blended fuels like E10 or E15, can inadvertently act as a catalyst for microbial growth within fuel systems;
  • This microbial proliferation typically occurs at the interface of fuel and water, a common occurrence in storage tanks where condensation can accumulate;
  • The microbes feed on the fuel, producing by-products such as acids, which can significantly increase acidity levels in the fuel;
  • This heightened acidity accelerates the corrosion process, posing a risk to fuel tanks, lines, and other components of the fuel system, potentially leading to costly repairs and maintenance issues.

The challenge of microbial growth in fuel systems is not limited to road vehicles; it is also a significant concern in marine, aviation, and stationary power generation applications, where the integrity of fuel is critical for both performance and safety. The presence of ethanol exacerbates this issue by providing an additional food source for these microbes, thereby increasing the risk of microbial contamination and corrosion.

To address this issue, the use of a fuel biocide like Biobor JF is recommended. Biobor JF is recognized as a leading solution in combating microbial growth in fuel systems. It not only inhibits the growth of harmful microbes but also serves as a lubricity additive, which is particularly beneficial given ethanol’s tendency to dry out and degrade certain fuel system components. This dual-action approach helps maintain the integrity of the fuel and the health of the fuel system, extending the lifespan of the equipment and ensuring more reliable operation. Additionally, the use of such additives is important in settings where fuel may be stored for extended periods, such as in backup generators, agricultural equipment, and boats, as these scenarios present a higher risk of moisture accumulation and subsequent microbial growth.

Biobor EB: A Solution to Ethanol-Related Issues

  • Ethanol, commonly used in fuel blends like E10 and E15, introduces several challenges to fuel systems and engines, including increased water absorption, corrosion, phase separation, and reduced energy efficiency;
  • Biobor EB, known as the Ethanol Buster and Performance Enhancer, is formulated to address these ethanol-induced issues;
  • It works by enhancing the fuel’s stability, preventing corrosion, and improving the overall performance of engines running on ethanol-blended fuels;
  • This makes it a valuable addition not just for everyday vehicles, but also for a wider range of applications, such as marine engines, agricultural machinery, and recreational vehicles, where the effects of ethanol can be particularly problematic.

In addition to the issues directly related to ethanol, fuel systems are also susceptible to microbial contamination, especially in environments where it is stored for extended periods or exposed to moisture. Biobor JF complements the action of Biobor EB by offering protection against microbial growth. It serves as a biocide, effectively eliminating microorganisms that can cause degradation, system blockages, and increased acidity leading to corrosion. The combination of Biobor EB and JF provides a comprehensive solution, safeguarding the fuel quality and ensuring the longevity and reliability of the fuel system and engine.

The use of these products is especially crucial in sectors like aviation, boating, and emergency power systems, where fuel integrity and engine reliability are paramount. By stabilizing the fuel, preventing microbial growth, and enhancing engine performance, these additives help maintain operational efficiency, reduce maintenance costs, and extend the lifespan of equipment. In summary, Biobor EB and JF present a holistic approach to managing the challenges posed by ethanol in fuels, offering benefits that span across various industries and applications.

Long-Term Impacts of Ethanol Fuel Usage

The prolonged use of ethanol fuel brings about noteworthy concerns that warrant attention. Ethanol’s inherent corrosiveness can lead to a host of issues, including storage complications, moisture-related problems, and engine damage. This type of fuel tends to deteriorate rubber and plastic components in engines and fuel systems, potentially resulting in expensive repairs. Furthermore, ethanol’s propensity to attract water from the air can lead to phase separation in fuel tanks, creating a corrosive mixture that clogs filters and erodes metal parts. In severe instances, entire tanks may need replacement due to ethanol-induced damage. To mitigate these long-term effects, using a product like Biobor EB is advisable as it is formulated to prevent corrosion. Additionally, maintaining a full fuel tank is crucial to minimize condensation and subsequent issues in the fuel system.

Ethanol-Related Damage to Fuel Systems and Equipment

Ethanol-blended gasoline presents various challenges, including water accumulation, storage difficulties, and corrosion, which can adversely affect your fuel system and engine. To combat these issues, consider using an advanced ethanol fuel additive like Biobor EB. This product is designed to safeguard engines and fuel systems from ethanol’s damaging effects. It enhances fuel lubricity, wards off corrosion, and prevents phase separation. Biobor EB is particularly beneficial for gasoline vehicles, boats, small engines, recreational and off-road vehicles, which often face more significant fuel storage challenges. If you need to store fuel for extended periods, Biobor EB can stabilize it for up to 18 months. An added advantage is that it’s alcohol-free, offering a robust solution against ethanol’s detrimental effects in gasoline without adding extra alcohol to your fuel system.


In conclusion, understanding the corrosive nature of ethanol fuel is essential for safeguarding the durability and efficiency of fuel systems. Derived from plant sources, ethanol’s corrosive properties necessitate proactive protective measures. Recognizing its solvent traits and lower energy content is vital. Implementing strategies such as using corrosion-resistant materials, regular inspections, and suitable additives is crucial. Acknowledging and addressing the challenges posed by ethanol’s corrosive tendencies ensures the ongoing reliability and sustainability of fuel systems in our evolving energy landscape.

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