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Frequently asked questions - ethanol 

What are biofuels?  

Biofuels are fuels made from renewable biological feedstocks, either crops or waste. The most common biofuels currently available are biodiesel and ethanol.

Biofuels are generally blended with petroleum - B5 is diesel containing 5% biodiesel; E10 is petrol containing 10% ethanol. 

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What is ethanol?  

Ethanol is an alcohol produced by fermenting sugar, grain (eg. wheat and sorghum) or other plant matter using yeasts. All solids and water are removed, leaving pure ethanol.

Most of the ethanol produced in NSW is made from the waste starch left over after processing flour to produce gluten (wheat protein) and industrial starch.

The solid matter left after fermenting grains can be used as stock food and the water can be recycled.

The standard E10 available in NSW is a blend of regular grade (91RON) unleaded petrol with up to 10% ethanol.

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What is the future of biofuels in NSW?  

From 1 July 2015, Fair Trading became responsible for administering the Biofuels Act 2007 (the Act).

The Act requires a certain percentage of the total volume of petrol sold in NSW by volume fuel sellers to be ethanol and a certain percentage of the total volume of diesel sold to be biodiesel.

The percentages prescribed under the Act are called the biofuels mandates. The mandate for ethanol is 6% and the mandate for biodiesel is 2%.

The current mandates support the development of a sustainable first generation biofuels industry. 

The NSW Government is currently considering a number of options to improve the operation of the Biofuels Act. More information is available in the Minister's media release.

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Will E10 work in my vehicle?  

Most cars manufactured since 1986 to run on regular ULP are recommended by their manufacturer as E10 compatible. 

For vehicle manufacturers' recommendations on the suitability of E10 for particular vehicles and for links to manufacturers' websites go to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries' website.

If your vehicle requires PULP, you should continue to use 95RON or 98RON petrol as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

A few fuel companies offer premium blends containing 10% ethanol that do meet the requirements of high performance engines. If your vehicle is suitable for 10% ethanol you can safely use these premium ethanol blends.

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Is ethanol just for cars?  

No. E10 is suitable for use in most petrol-fuelled cars and trucks sold since 1986, and is also suitable for use in many motorcycles.

Ethanol-blend fuels are generally not recommended for marine engines due to the danger of water contaminating the fuel. You can find out more at the Maritime section of the Roads and Maritime Services website.

For small engines such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers and chainsaws you should refer to your owner's handbook or ask the manufacturer or distributor. Ethanol-blend fuel should not be left in the fuel tanks of small engines for more than a few weeks.

Ethanol-blend fuels are not suitable for aircraft use unless the aircraft is specifically certified to use motor gasoline (MOGAS) containing up to 10% ethanol.  You can find out more from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Airworthiness Bulletin 28-003.

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Will my vehicle have problems if I use E10?  

If your vehicle is suitable for E10 and in good condition, you shouldn’t experience problems due to E10 itself. When problems do arise, almost all are due to contaminated fuel.

Fuel can be contaminated either from the service station storage tank or by your own vehicle tank. Quality fuel suppliers ensure their tanks are clean and free of water before filling with E10 for the first time.

If you have an older vehicle, or suspect that you may have experienced contaminated fuel in the past, you should also ensure that your tank is clean and free of water before filling with E10. If you do have water in your tank, the first fill of E10 will clean it out and the vehicle may run rough until it is used up. If problems persist after the second fill, you may have rust or other material clogging your fuel filter. A filter change should fix the problem. 

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Where can I buy E10?  

E10 unleaded can be bought from most service stations around the State.

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What about E85? 

E85 is a blend of up to 85% ethanol with unleaded petrol. It is used in specially-designed 'flex fuel' vehicles which are widely used in the USA and Sweden, and are now being introduced in Australia.

It is theoretically possible to convert a petrol-engine vehicle to flex fuel, but as such conversions necessarily require modification of the vehicles fuel management and emission control systems, an engineer's certificate is required by RMS for any conversion. There are no approved conversion kits that remove this requirement for certification.

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What is biodiesel?  

Biodiesel is diesel fuel produced from tallow, waste cooking oil or other vegetable oils. It can be blended in petroleum diesel at up to 5%, sold as a higher biodiesel blend (B20 is 20% biodiesel), or even used straight (B100). Its quality is regulated by the Federal Biodiesel Fuel Quality Standard.

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Will biodiesel work in my vehicle?  

Under the new Federal Diesel Fuel Quality Standard, up to 5% biodiesel may be blended in diesel fuel in Australia. This diesel is suitable for use in any diesel vehicle.

B20 is also available.  For information on the suitability of B20 or B100 for your vehicle, refer to your vehicle manufacturer or dealer. 

Advice for boat owners is available from the maritime section of the Roads and Maritime website.


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