Read all about E10 – the soon-to-be standard petrol grade in the UK

A new mixture of petrol is now available at pumps in the UK. It contains an increased proportion of ethanol from renewable sources and is claimed to help lower the carbon emissions contributing to climate change.

This resource provides a real-life example of the use of ethanol. It can be used after teaching this topic, in the lesson or as a homework, and will give your learners a chance to consider the underlying chemistry, while they assess the claims made about E10 petrol.

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Sustainability in chemistry

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This resource accompanies the Education in Chemistry article Give context to your teaching of biofuels where you will find more support and suggestions for how to connect your current chemistry teaching with UN sustainable development goal 8: promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Learners are asked to read through two extracts from a recent news article about E10 petrol and answer questions. 

A photograph of a wheat field

Source: © Shutterstock

From canteen to car: wheat’s versatility sees it being used in your favourite foods and to make biofuels, including ethanol

Extract 1 introduces E10 petrol and compares it to existing petrol grades in the UK, known as E5. 

Questions (ethanol revision)

1. What is the chemical formula for ethanol?

2. What part of the structure means ethanol is an alcohol?

3. Name the process for obtaining ethanol from plants?

4. What conditions are needed for the process named in Q3?

Use the extract to answer these questions

5. Why is the new fuel called ‘E10 petrol’?

6. Why is E10 classed as a ‘more eco-friendly’ fuel?

Extract 2 introduces some of the debate around E10 asking the question, how green is this really? 


7. What does carbon-neutral mean?

8. Why might claims that ethanol is a carbon-neutral fuel be misleading?

9. State and explain one advantage and one disadvantage of using ethanol as a fuel.

Answers to all questions are provided in the teacher notes

  • Download this

    A student sheet and teacher notes available as PDFs or MS Word docs.


After completing the worksheet, learners could be asked to produce a leaflet to hand out at petrol stations to let the public know why we have the new petrol, and to persuade them to buy it. The learner would have to decide on what the important points are for the customer, how much science to include and present the science in an easy-to-understand format for the members of the public who are not scientists.


UN Sustainable development goal 8 has a focus on promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all. Direct your learners to our Future in chemistry resources to explore the different opportunities available and try the interactive careers game. You will find videos, information on a variety of study options and job profiles to fit with different topics in your curriculum, find links to your curriculum here.

Link sustainable energy to your lessons on biofuels and enhance your teaching in this topic area with the UN Sustainable development goal 7 (ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) article in this series.

Find more resources 

  • Use this starter slide to show an alternative way of making ethanol from lignin. 
  • Tee up your learners with information and guidance on T-levels, a new science qualification available in England which includes industry placements. 
  • Link to careers with our Chemistry: making the difference videos and let your learners know about the different study options available to them.
  • Use our organic chemistry worksheets for revision and more practice in applying knowledge in context.
  • Show learners a video of Misbah talking about her role as a senior principle scientist and how she uses computers to predict which catalysts will be best at removing harmful pollutants from road-using vehicles.