Alcohols are a group of organic compounds with the hydroxyl (-OH) as functional group.  There are different kinds of alcohols and are all hydrocarbon derivatives.   Naming of alcohols is based on the radical that is attached to the hydroxyl group.  ROH is the general formula for alcohols where R is the radical that is attached to the –OH group.  The most common forms of alcohol are methanol, ethanol, butanol, and propanol.


Ethanol, one of the most common types of alcohol, is produced by the process of fermentation.   When yeast breaks down sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol, there is the occurrence of fermentation.  The fermentation process uses this equation:

Glucose + yeast  alcohol + carbon dioxide

Alcohols are produced also by ethylene’s direct hydration  or other alkenes from distilled crude oil fractions cracking.

Storage and Handling

Low boiling alcohols can be stored in carbon steel tanks.  These low boiling alcohols include methanol, ethanol, propanol, isopropanol, butanol, isobutanol, and primary amyl alcohol.  Aluminum tanks should never be used for storing alcohols with very low water content.

In order to exclude air, nitrogen or any dry inert gas should be provided to the tank’s vapor space.  Water contamination of the alcohol will be avoided since this process prevents the pickup of moisture from air.

Alcohols that contain five or more carbon atoms per molecule or higher aliphatic alcohols can be stored in carbon steel tanks, aluminum, stainless steel, galvanized or tinned iron, and nickel.

These alcohols have a low freezing point, thus it is not normally required for heated storage.

The material used for the tank can be used for the transfer lines.  Transfer service can use a centrifugal pump.  Nitrile or EDPM is compatible with gaskets.


Alcohol has different uses.  Ethanol is used as a drinking beverage that is associated with relaxation and socialization.  Alcohols such as ethanol and methanol are possible fossil fuel alternatives.  Unlike fossil fuels that are non-renewable sources of energy, ethanol is a renewable fuel as it can be produced from sugar cane.  Dependence on countries that produce oil will be reduced.         Ethanol can also be used to produce perfumes and colognes.   Ethanol is a nonpolar compound and is used to dissolve substances that are not soluble with water.   These include cosmetics, perfumes, and vegetable essences such as vanilla extract. Methanol can be used to clean paint brushes.  However, all possible safety precautions should be followed as methanol can cause blindness if ingested.