Chances are you have used or consumed a product containing renewable ethanol in the past week. While most renewable ethanol produced in Europe ends up in your fuel tank, it is also used by many other industrial sectors to produce countless consumer products.
Renewable ethanol for beverage and industrial uses
Significant volumes of renewable ethanol are produced for the beverage and industrial markets from agricultural feedstock, such as grains and sugar beet. Renewable ethanol produced for these industries differs from ethanol for fuel only in its strength, which can vary between 96% and 99.9% and in its purity, depending on the end use.
Perhaps the best-known end-user of renewable ethanol – after the transport sector – is the drinks industry. While not all alcoholic beverages start with neutral spirits or contain a neutral spirit, it is an integral base for some of the most popular alcoholic beverages, including vodka and gin.
Ethanol has many useful properties which allow it to be used by a range of different industries
The ethanol used as an intermediary product by the chemical, pharmaceutical or cosmetics industry is in many cases of the highest and purest possible quality. These are premium markets due to the additional steps in the alcohol production process that are necessary to achieve the required purity. The same high standards and processes apply when alcohol is used for the production of spirit drinks.
Ethanol is a valuable ingredient in the production of:
Neutral alcohol (flavourless, odourless, and colourless) made from grains, grapes, molasses, potatoes, and other agricultural origins provides the base for many spirit drinks. For instance, gin can be made from neutral grain spirit infused with spices and botanicals. When producing vodka, the neutral spirits can be re-distilled and rectified including with activated charcoal, so as to give the spirit special organoleptic characteristics.
Food and non-alcoholic beverages:
Flavours and aromas. Ethanol is used as a natural product to extract and concentrate flavours and aromas, which are then used by the food & drink industry. No alcohol is contained in the final products.
Paints and thermometers. Ethanol is widely used as a solvent, and you can find it in many household products, such as the de-icer or anti-freeze you use to clear your car windscreen. Increasingly ethanol is used as a renewable alternative to fossil-based chemicals for creating a large range of products, such as bioplastics.
Ethanol is contained in perfumes, deodorants, and other cosmetics.
Ethanol also has many medical uses, and can be found in products such as medicines, medical wipes and as an antiseptic in most antibacterial hand sanitiser gels.