Special chemical firm Evonik introduces the bio-derived variant of MTBE or methyl-tertiary-butyl. The MTBE is an oxygenate that helps improve the combustion of gasoline, prevent knocking of the engine, and lower carbon monoxide and other harmful emissions. It is made from biomethanol and isobutene in their Marl, Germany factory.
The MTBE has been known for decades as an antiknocking agent , the Bio-MTBE also has the same technical properties in terms of energy density, oxygen content, solubility, and vapor pressure as its conventional counterpart. This means that the Bio-MTBE can be sent through pipelines, stored in tanks, and handled in the refineries safely.
Since it is formulated from the raw form of glycerine, a co-product when manufacturing biodiesel, bio-methanol is considered as a waste product in the EU. This fact makes Bio-MTBE a viable option for manufacturers that hope to meet the specs of the EU for using biofuels
Evonik has the Netherlands and Germany as its primary markets for the Bio-MTBE and the implementation of the EU directives in other member countries shows the good potential for the product. European specs for gasoline allows 15% of MTBE while the revised directives for fuel quality expanded this to 22% for gasoline.
In the United States, MTBE has been used since 1979 in place of lead to boost the octane level of the fuel. Starting in 1992, MTBE has been used in higher concentrations in accordance with the clean air act enacted in 1990. In the late 90s though, some drinking water samples tested positive for MTBE so a lot of states started to phase it out.