Ethanol-blended petrol now in Kerala pumps, beware of water ingress into fuel tank

Kochi: Kerala has been receiving ethanol-blended petrol since last week as part of the central government’s initiative to promote environment-friendly fuel. Though the move has to be welcomed, motorists will have to be extra careful as they might face ignition problems if water that has seeped into the fuel tank mixes with ethanol.

Anticipating the possibility of getting complaints pertaining to petrol with water content, the organisations of petrol pump owners have started awareness programmes. They have urged consumers to check the quality of fuel at the petrol pumps themselves.

A special mechanism has been provided to the pump owners to examine the water content. The oil companies have directed the pump owners to ensure at least five times in a day that there is no water content in the tank.

The supply of petrol mixed with 10 per cent ethanol, an organic chemical compound, has started again in the state after it was discontinued earlier. The practice has been going on in many states for a while.

Ahead of the resupply representatives of the oil companies visited pumps and inspected the underground storage tanks to ascertain if there is presence of water. The water content was removed from tanks in which it was found.

How the trouble ensues

There is always a possibility of a small amount of water, with or without algae, at the bottom of the storage tank.

However, the water content found in normal petrol forms a separate layer and deposits at the bottom. However, this water will get mixed in ethanol-blended petrol. This increases the possibility of defects in the vehicles.

Hence motorists should ensure that water does not get into the fuel tank while washing or during rains.

The science behind

Ethanol, being a a hygroscopic material, easily attracts water and moisture, and thus can convert itself into water. However, this chance can be reduced if ethanol is blended correctly with petrol.

(Hygroscopy is the phenomenon of attracting and holding water molecules via either absorption or adsorption from the surrounding environment, which is usually at normal or room temperature.)

Benefits of biofuel

The Union energy ministry has decided to blend petrol with 20 per cent ethanol by 2025.

Ethanol, which is a biofuel, is a product of the sugar industry. The fuel which gets dissolved in water does not cause much harm to the environment as it consists of 35 per cent oxygen.

Promotion of ethanol-mixed petrol is beneficial for sugarcane farmers. It can reduce the import of non-refined petroleum oil and cut down pollution.

Ethanol or alcohol is also known as ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, drinking alcohol or spirits.

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