Methyl t-butyl ether, MTBE, is widely used as the oxygenated additive to improve the characeristics of petrol. and its production grew over 20 years from almost zero to about 16 million tonnes a year in 2002. There has now been a dramatic turnaround in the US, Canada, Japan and in Europe. It was found that even very small amounts of MTBE can contaminate drinking water. Any seepage from storage tanks in petrol stations, which is not uncommon, leads to damage to the water course, This is because MTBE is much more soluble in water than petrol and any MTBE in the ground, is carried by rainwater through the soil, whereas petrol that leaks remains close to the tank.
Many states in the US have now banned the use of MTBE in petrol. Among the first were California and New York. These two states accounted for 40% of the MTBE used for this purpose. Another 23 US states followed their lead within two years. (from biomass) is now the favoured oxygenate in the US, Canada and Japan in place of MTBE. Two other ethers, ETBE and TAME, are also used in the US and particularly in Europe. China and many other countries still use MTBE as their additive of choice although in China, is now being used more.
An increasing amount of ETBE (ethyl t-butyl ether) is used in Europe, particularly in France (see below). Another ether, TAME (t-amyl methyl ether) is also used in the US and Europe.
Ethyl t-butyl ether (ETBE) 2-ethoxy-2-methylpropane) is an alternative to MTBE as an oxygenate to enhance the octane rating of petrol. It is used mainly in Europe, particularly in France. This accounts for over 90% of the world's annual production of ca 3 million tonnes.
t-Amyl methyl ether (TAME) (2-methoxy-2-methylbutane) is another alternative to MTBE. It is made from two alkenes, 2-methylbut-1-ene and 2-methylbut-2-ene produced during the various refinery processes to make petrol, including .
A further way to improve the octane rating is to add an oxygenated compound. The favoured compounds are alcohols (methanol and ehanol) and one of three ethers MTBE (methyl t-butyl ether), ETBE (ethyl t-butyl ether), TAME (t-amyl methyl ether).
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Methyl t-butyl ether (2-methoxy-2-methylpropane), often referred to as simply MTBE, has been widely used over the last 30 years to improve the burning characteristics of petrol.
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