MTBE – Oxygenates 101
• Oxygenates are hydrocarbons that contain one or more oxygen atoms. When added to gasoline, oxygenates promote cleaner burning of the fuel in engines, reducing tailpipe emissions, particularly carbon monoxide. The use of oxygenates also dilute or displace less desirable gasoline components such as sulfur and aromatics (e.g. benzene, toluene). The primary oxygenates are ethers and alcohols. Ethers include methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE), and tertiary amyl methyl ether (TAME) while alcohols include ethanol, methanol and tert‐butyl alcohol (TBA).
• MTBE is an acronym for methyl tertiary butyl ether, a compound manufactured through the reaction of methanol and isobutylene.
• Today, MTBE is most commonly used as a clean fuel component to boost the octane levels of unleaded gasoline due to its superior technical and blending properties. MTBE is also used to make other compounds used in the production of consumer goods and it is employed as a solvent and extractant.