You may have heard of bioethanol as a fuel source, and of ethanol as a type of alcohol - particularly as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks. But what are the differences between the ethanol found in drinks like whisky and vodka, and the bioethanol used as a fuel for fireplaces and even cars?


Ethanol and bioethanol are chemically exactly the same - a simple alcohol. However, the different names refer to the way they are produced. Ethanol is the name of the substance itself, however it is made, whereas bioethanol refers to a fuel produced by a process of fermentation of a biomass containing sugars, which can be anything from sugar cane and other food crops such as artichokes, to wood chips, waste straw, or sawdust, and distilling the ethanol from it. In general, bioethanol production aims to be as environmentally friendly as possible and to maximise the yield of pure bioethanol as fuel, with a minimum of land required to grow the food crop.

Because bioethanol is in fact pure ethanol, when it is sold as fuel for fireplaces, for example, it is "denatured" to give it a very unattractive taste and prevent human consumption, similar to the sale of pure alcohols as detergents.