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What are the Benefits of MTBE?

Ram Kadam


Organic methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) oxygenates gasoline. It boosts fuel octane and combustion while lowering CO emissions. Concerns over groundwater pollution and dwindling US consumption make its use controversial. 

Also referred to as methyl tertiary butyl ether or MTBE, methyl tert-butyl ether is an organic substance. MTBE is a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid that mixes easily with water. It has a disagreeable taste and smell in water due to its minty aroma, which is somewhat similar to diethyl ether.  

An oxygenate added to gasoline, MTBE, raises the octane number. Because of laws that favor ethanol and the fact that it occurs in groundwater, its use is contentious and is declining in the United States. MTBE production has remained steady globally at approximately 18 million tons/year (2005) due to growth in Asian markets less reliant on ethanol subsidies. 

Chemical interaction: 

The chemical interaction of isobutylene and methanol produces MTBE. Since isobutylene is made from butane, which is made from natural gas or crude oil, and methanol is made from natural gas, MTBE is made from fossil fuels. When it was used as a fuel additive, it was produced in the US in large quantities (more than 200,000 barrels per day in 1999). 

Fuel component: 

The fuel used in gasoline engines nearly entirely contains MTBE as a fuel component. Because it increases the oxygen concentration of gasoline, it belongs to a class of compounds called oxygenates. 

One clear advantage MTBE has over most ethers as a solvent is that it is less likely to form explosive organic peroxides. While methyl tertiary butyl ether samples are generally safe for years (though they should still be checked frequently), opened bottles of THF or diethyl ether may accumulate lethal quantities of these peroxides in months. This is why MTBE is widely utilized as a solvent in industry, where safety concerns and regulations make working with THF, diethyl ether, or other ethers considerably more difficult and costly. MTBE also has a higher boiling point. With a few notable exceptions, MTBE is seldom utilized as a solvent in academics despite its prevalence in industrial contexts.  

MTBE is used as a supplement 

The most widely used RFG addition in many regions is MTBE, a colorless, flammable liquid with a pungent smell. In 1992, 27 American firms generated 9.1 billion pounds of MTBE. BP Amoco PLC, Enron Corp., Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) Chemical, Exxon and Mobil Corp., and other corporations are producers of MTBE. When added to gasoline, MTBE enhances combustion and lowers carbon monoxide (CO) emissions. Compared to ethene, nontoluene aromatics, alkenes, and aldehydes, MTBE has a lesser capacity to generate ozone.   

MTBE Levels in American Population: 

In the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (Fourth Report), CDC scientists evaluated MTBE in the blood of 1,307 individuals aged 25–59 years who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2003–2004. By testing MTBE in blood, scientists can estimate the quantity of MTBE that has entered people’s bodies. 

CDC researchers discovered measurable amounts of MTBE in 75% of the subjects. 

Final Thoughts: 

Finding a quantifiable quantity of MTBE in blood does not mean that the level of MTBE creates a detrimental health consequence. Biomonitoring tests of blood MTBE may offer doctors, and public health authorities reference values to assess whether persons have been exposed to greater amounts of MTBE than the levels observed in the general population. Scientists may plan and conduct studies on exposure and health impacts using biomonitoring data. 

Resource Box: 

Vinati Organics is a prominent specialized chemical manufacturer of organic intermediates and monomers. Vinati Organics provides high-quality solutions for global businesses via sustainability and innovation. 


Ram Kadam
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