Sugar crops are a major feedstock for renewable bioethanol production for use as a transportation fuel. Other feedstocks include starch-rich crops such as corn, wheat and cassava. Because it is a clean, affordable and low-carbon biofuel, ethanol from sugar crops has emerged as a leading renewable transportation fuel. Ethanol for fuel can be used in two ways:

  • Blended with gasoline at levels ranging from 5 to 27.5% to reduce petroleum use, boost octane ratings and cut tailpipe emissions.
  • Pure ethanol – a fuel made up of 85 to 100% ethanol and which can be used in specially designed engines such as flexifuel vehicles.

There are several benefits often recognised from fuel ethanol use. These include

  • Cleaner Air. Ethanol adds oxygen to gasoline which helps reduce air pollution and harmful emissions in tailpipe exhaust.
  • Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Compared to gasoline, ethanol from sugar crops significantly cuts carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Better Performance. Ethanol is a high-octane fuel that helps prevent engine knocking and generates more power in higher compression engines.
  • Lower Petroleum Usage. Ethanol reduces global dependence on oil.

Brazil is the world leader in fuel ethanol production from sugarcane.

Ethanol Production

World fuel ethanol production and consumption recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic-hit year of 2020 but remained below what had been achieved prior to the onset of the global health crisis. Global production in 2021 rose to 104.5 bln litres, from 101.4 bln litres in 2020. Production in the US (+4.1 bln litres) and India (+1.2 bln litres) rose sharply, more than offsetting falls in output in Brazil (-2.8 bln litres), Thailand (-0.15 bln litres), and Colombia (-0.14 bln litres).

Ethanol Consumption

The consumption side of the global balance in 2021 also displayed a recovery from the previous year but remained impacted by price parity considerations against gasoline and sugar and, in some cases, by mobility restrictions. As a result, consumption trailed production by 3.0 bln litres, at 101.5 bln litres, and representing a 6.8 bln litre decline from 2019.

More information can be found in the ISO Ethanol Yearbook