Alcohols and other oxygenates in automotive fuels

  • Nicholas R. Gribble

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The aim of this research was to assess the effect of oxygenated hydrocarbons on the knocking characteristics of an engine when blended with
low-leaded gasoline.
Alcohols, ethers, esters and ketones were tested individually and in various combinations up to an oxygen content of 4% wt/wt in a blend with Series F-7
gasoline of 90, 92, 94 and 96 RON. Tests were carried out at wide open throttle,
constant speed and standard timing setting. Engine speed was varied using a
dynamometer and knock was detected by two piezoelectric transducers, one on the cylinder head monitoring all four cylinders and one monitoring the cylinder most prone to knock. The engine speeds associated with trace and light knock of a continuous nature were noted.
Curves were produced for each oxygenate blend of base RON used against engine speed for the two knock conditions which were compared with those
produced using pure Series F-7 fuels. From this a suggested RON of the blend was derived. RON increase was less when using a higher RON base fuel in the blend.
Most individual oxygenates showed similar effects in similar concentrations when their oxygen content was comparable. Blends containing more than one oxygenate showed some variation with methanol/MTBE/3 methylbutan-2-one and methanol/MTBE/4 methyl pentan-2-one knocking less than expected
and methanol/MTBE/TBA also showing good knock resistance. Further tests to
optimise initial findings suggested a blend of methanol and MTBE to be superior
although partial replacement of MTBE by 4 methyl pentan-2-one resulted in a fuel of comparable performance.
Exhaust emissions were tested for a number of oxygenated blends in 2-star gasoline. 2-star and 4-star fuels were also tested for reference. All oxygenate
blends reduced carbon monoxide emissions as expected and hydrocarbon emissions were also reduced. The largest reduction in carbon monoxide occurred using a 14.5 % (1 : 1 : 1) methanol/MTBE/4 methyl pentan-2-one blend. Hydrocarbon emissions were most markedly reduced by a blend containing 25.5 % 4 methyl pentan-2-one.
Power output was tested for the blends and indicated a maximum increase of about 5 % at low engine speeds. The most advantageous blends were methanol/4 methyl pentan-2-one (6 : 5) 11% in 2-star and methanol/MTBE/4 methyl pentan-2-one (6 : 3 : 2) 11% in 2-star.
In conclusion methanol/MTBE (6 : 5) and (5 : 5), and various combinations of methanol/MTBE/4 methyl pentan-2-one, notably (6 : 3 : 2) gave good
results in all tests conducted. CFR testing of these blends showed them to increase both RON and MON substantially.
Date of AwardMay 1987
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorB.G Temple (Supervisor)


  • Alcohols
  • gasoline
  • knock
  • octane number
  • oxygenate

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