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Arthur GUENEGO - Bioethanol in France.

Edited by Camila Maciel

       1. Product and technology description

 Bioethanol is ethanol produced from biomass. In France, it is produced from sugar or starch fermentation, mainly obtained from cereals as corn or wheat, and vegetable as beetroot. Its main utilization is in combustion engines. The industrial fermentation allows the sugar, or starch, to be transformed into alcohol. Afterwards this raw alcohol is distilled then dehydrated to obtain bioethanol.

There are two major manners to utilize bioethanol in France. First, the raw ethanol can be incorporate into gasoline, in proportion of up to 10% without any changes for the engine, the tank or the distribution network; this mix is named SP95-E10. This first process is widely used in French gasoline, being delivered since April 2009, riquiring no special indication for users.

The second method, named Superethanol-E85 (or simply E85), is a fuel composed of 65 to 85% of bioethanol completed with classic gasoline. However, this process cannot be always used. Most of the time some engine adaptation is needed. Once transformed, these vehicles are named FlexFuel. This adaptation consists in the installation of an electronical box that allows carburant to be injected, depending on the bioethanol concentration inside of it, realizing a sufficient blast in the combustion engine [1].


     2. Market report

It is important to mention that the French bioethanol production supplies the whole bioethanol consumed in France. This market is not limited to fuel fields, but also to agricultural fields and research offices.

Nowadays in France, the bioethanol is mostly used for private individual consumption and delivered in all of gas stations in the form of SP95-E10 at the cost of 1.49 €/L. Regarding Superethanol-E85, it is more and more available, from 316 in 2010 to more than 1000 gas stations today at the cost of 0.69 €/L. The consumption of superethanol-E85 was about 118 million of litres in 2017, or 1.2% of gasoline market [2].

We also can see new opportunities for this market. Indeed, buses and trucks can now ride with bioethanol, named ED95 and composed of 95% of bioethanol [3]. This is a great step for all the public transportation networks and let show us that there will be other opportunities in bio carburant field for the future, notably for long-distance travels in ship or airplane.


      3. Policies measures


French government is not expressive on the issue, that is why in most cases people are not aware about the emergence of biofuel. Now, taxes on classical fuels are increasing, accompanied by an ecological speech, but nothing is set up to showcase all the advantages about bioethanol. The reason of this silence is clear, as a lot of money in France comes from gasoline and diesel taxes, it will be a huge lack for the government if fossil fuel consumption decreases [4].



Remaining only the low price of Superethanol-E85 due to the absence of any taxes on biofuels. But as we’ve seen before, some changes are necessary to ride with this kind of biofuel and French government does not propose any subsidies to encourage people toward this way. In answer to French mobilisation again the rising price of fossil carburant due to a hike in the taxes, two regions have decided to propose subsidies to help people convert their cars in FlexFluel, independently of government choices. But these subsidies are restricted for a certain kind of person, calculated from the distance HOME-WORK, and their number is limited to 20 000 grantees.


        4. Evaluation measures


Even if this change is ecologically necessary, French people need explanations and orientations to change their habits. Until now, the economical question is always more important than the ecological one. Combined with a wide domination of oil and petrol lobbies, we can easily understand that French government does not really want to see this situation evolve.

But the fact to transform your former gasoline car into a FlexFuel engine is a success, and what could be better to show that than asking to concerned and aware people?

In one hand, we have the ecological advantage shown by the Specialized School of Bern which tell us Superethanol-E85 reject fewer polluting particles of up to 90% than gasoline [3]. In the other hand, and in our actual capitalism system, Superethanol users are waiting for economic benefits, and it works! For this study, I’ve interviewed two persons riding with Superethanol-E85. Whether for a 100cv car for William P. or a 350cv car for Baptiste F., the bioethanol effect is directly visible on your bill at the gas station. Indeed, their consumption with biofuel have slightly increase but the budget assigned for carburant have been divided by two [5]. Taking in account the price for update the car engine which is about 800 euros, they have been cost-effective in between 6 and 9 months of Superethanol-E85 utilisation (depending on your consumption every month). According to their words, everybody has a lot to gain from Superethanol-E85 utilisation, but the main issue today is the absence of gas stations proposing this product along the bigger highways across France [5] the unawareness on bioethanol.


       5. Reference


[1] Everything about bioethanol production in France with the National Union of Agricultural Alcohol Producers (Syndicat National des Producteurs d’Alcool Agricol – SNPAA):



[2] Bioethanol consumption growth in France through consumed volume, taxes and number of equipped gas station:




[3] Details about trucks riding with bioethanol and study about ecological benefits:



[4] Composition and taxes of carburant in France



[5] Testimony from William P. and Baptiste F., two users of FlexFuel engine using Superethanol-E85 as combustible

  • It is important to note that, besides the usefulness of this alternative type of energy to the French community and the great discussions it can generate, the topic does not approach specifically the intented discussion about bioenergy from wood biomass.
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