Ethanol Vehicle Fuel: Handle With Care!

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(Credit: Caroline McCarthy/CNET News.com)

Last week, I had a chance to check out a new device for making ethanol for use as a fuel in personal vehicles.

This new system, which was introduced earlier this year, The EFuel100 MicroFueler,™ is the world’s first portable ethanol micro-refinery system, making it possible for homeowners and small businesses to safely and cost-effectively create their own fuel, on-site. I am in no means putting down the EFuel100 MicroFueler™, but, if you are thinking about purchasing one of these units, there are real safety and health issues that have to be considered and observed when handling ethanol or ethyl alcohol.

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To start with, ethanol is a hazardous chemical and quoting from the “Hazardous Chemical Desk Reference” by Saks and Lewis, ethanol has a health rating of 3, (0=no health effect, 4= maximum health effect) and a flash point of 56.5°F. (Any flash point below 100°F is classified a flammable liquid). Ethanol is moderately toxic by ingestion, intravenous and skin contact, and is a dangerous fire hazard when exposed to heat, open flames and sources of ignition. Ethanol is also a reproductive hazard.
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Ethanol evaporates and vapors will ignite when concentrated enough in the right conditions. Having a fire extinguisher handy is mandatory. Remember: No Smoking, No Open Flames or Sources of Ignition, No Welding, No Small Appliances (hot plates and coffee makers). They may spark and ignite ethanol vapors if conditions are concentrated enough. Be sure to always work in a well ventilated area.

Another important safety factor to consider when handling ethanol is using safety glasses and having a special eye wash bottle handy for a splashed eye emergency. Ethanol will cause severe irritaiton to the eyes and if not removed immediately, can cause chemical conjunctivitis and possible corneal damage. Always wear saftey glasses when handling ethanol.

Here is a link to the chemical characteristics of ethanol, a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) is provided for your review. I would encourage anyone who is not familar with ethanol and is going to work with ethanol, check out the ethanol MSDS.

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4 Responses to Ethanol Vehicle Fuel: Handle With Care!

  1. Justin George May 20, 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    You gotta be kidding me. It’s moonshine, people have been dealing with it ever since the invention of the still.

  2. Tom May 21, 2008 at 12:24 am #

    That sounds like a statement made by the oil companies to keep us hooked on their oil products. Let’s not forget for a moment that gasoline is a dangerous substance for humans too (although we’ve been handling it via self serve gas stations and filling our home garden power equipment using 5 and 10 gallon portable tanks around the house for our entire adult lives). Rather why is it that we can go to the corner liquor store and buy 160 proof (80% ethanol alcohol) in tasty whiskey or tequila flavors can consume it!!! But if you want to place 190 proof alcohol in our car we suddenly are not qualified to handle it – go figure? The ethanol made in MicroFueler is 99.3% pure ethanol alcohol and is just as dangerous to drink as a glass of gasoline. The consumer has been making this stuff for thousands of years thus I don’t see why our generation isn’t qualified to handle it as our ancestors did before us?

  3. chemicallygreen.com May 21, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    @Justin George. Thanks for the comment. 3 people died just down the street from my business using ethanol to clean a floor. The weather was hot and vapors were over the explosion limit and when one of the men started a fork lift, boom. They did not realize what ethanol could do in an enclosed environment Just wanted to make people aware of ethanol. The moonshine made in the Georgia mountains is made in a fairly open space minimizing explosive vapors.

  4. chemicallygreen.com May 21, 2008 at 5:10 pm #

    @Tom. Thanks for your comment. I am all for your new system. I do not support the oil companies. The sooner the U.S. can get off the oil addiction, the better for our nation. I certainly wish you and your company the best in your new venture. However, there is a safety factor involved with ethanol in confined spaces and if eye contamination occurs. Several years ago, 3 men were burned to death down the street from our business while cleaning floors with ethanol. Unfortunately, they were not trained properly and they made a grave mistake. This is the reason I published this article.

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