Homebrewed, non-ethanol fuel: A potentially deadly DIY | Fuel Facts

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Can’t find storage-friendly, ethanol-free gas locally? Did you know you can make your own? There are countless videos on YouTube showing the process–but before you rush off to watch them, keep reading.

The Theory Behind Homebrewed, Non-Ethanol Fuel

Gas companies add ethanol to most pump fuels to increase the octane rating while also tapping a renewable resource. But that same ethanol can also attract moisture from the atmosphere, leading to long-term storage issues.

While non-ethanol specialty fuels are available–the Sunoco Race Fuels catalog contains several options, for example–some people have taken to creating their own using a process detailed in countless YouTube videos. 

First, they simply add water to some pump fuel. The water attracts the ethanol from the gasoline and, thanks to phase separation and density, settles at the bottom of the container. Syphoning out that water/ethanol mix yields a fuel supply that’s theoretically free of ethanol. 

The Reality Behind Homebrewed, Non-Ethanol Fuel

Zachary J. Santner, senior specialist of quality with Sunoco, notes a few concerns regarding this process, with a very big one involving safety: Gasoline vapors are rather flammable and, thanks to having vapor density heavier than air, might collect unnoticed around your feet. One spark could then ruin your day/life.

Ethanol is added to fuel to increase its octane, so removing that ethanol yields a fuel that’s more susceptible to knock. In rough terms, this process would turn 87-octane fuel into 83, 93-octane into 91.

Santner also notes that the phase separation used to pull the ethanol from gasoline is impacted by ambient temperature. “The colder the temperature, the better the phase separation will be,” he notes. But even under ideal conditions, he continues, this process could leave the fuel containing less than 1% water: “Any of that little dissolved water could lead to corrosion.”

Santner also notes that the antioxidants added to gasoline to extend its shelf life are often water-soluble, so this homebrewed trick intended to create the perfect storage fuel could have the opposite effect by removing the additives designed to protect the fuel when sitting. 

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frenchyd UltimaDork
1/4/22 10:40 a.m.

Water has always been in gasoline. Some in the processing but most in storage. Storage from the big tank at the refinery to the tank underground at the gas station. Finally from humid air entering the cars gas tank replacing the gasoline used. 
      If you look under the hoods of cars from the 1930's through the 1950's some cars had a glass bowl  in the fuel line  that separated out the water from the gasoline. There was a little thumb screw underneath so you could dump out the glass bowl and hopefully the next time you bought gas there would be less water in it.  
     Well except they've found a trace of water  smooths combustion, cleans deposits,  and helps the engine make more power.  That's about when the glass bowls disappeared ( or maybe insurance companies discouraged their use?).   
     There are products to add to gasoline that not only help in keeping water in suspension but prevent the light ends of the gasoline from evaporating.   
    Ethanol is not a villain.  At least no worse than gasoline.  

RadBarchetta New Reader
7/22/22 11:15 a.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

"There are products to add to gasoline that not only help in keeping water in suspension "

Yup. It's called ethanol. It's hygroscopic nature works in our favor in this case.

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