A statistical analysis of the theoretical yield of ethanol from corn starch

Tadeusz Patzek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This paper analyzes the Illinois State Variety Test results for total and extractable starch content in 708 samples of 401 commercial varieties of corn. It is shown that the normally distributed extractable starch content has the mean of 66.2% and the standard deviation of 1.13%. The corresponding maximum theoretical yield of ethanol is 0.364 kg EtOH/kg dry corn, and the standard deviation is 0.007. In the ethanol industry units, this yield translates to 2.64 gal EtOH/nominal wet bushel, and the standard deviation is 0.05 gal/bu. The U.S. ethanol industry consistently has inflated its ethanol yields by counting 5 volume percent of # 14 gasoline denaturant (8% of energy content) as ethanol. Also, imports from Brazil and higher alcohols seem to have been counted as U.S. ethanol. The usually accepted USDA estimate of mean ethanol yield in the U.S., 2.682 gal EtOH/bu, is one standard deviation above the rigorous statistical estimate in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-212
Number of pages8
JournalNatural Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006


  • Distribution
  • Extractable
  • Monte Carlo
  • Starch
  • Statistics
  • Total

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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