ExxonMobil producing hand sanitizer to donate to health workers and first responders

ExxonMobile has devised a single solution for the double whammy of historic low oil prices and a coronavirus pandemic:  converting one of its plants to make medical-grade hand sanitizer for health care providers and first responders.

The oil and gas giant has reconfigured a facility in Louisianna to produce the product, which it plans to donate for free to medical workers within the state and in New York, Texas, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, ExxonMobil announced Friday.

“We’re focused on keeping our people and communities safe while supporting frontline responders and meeting customer needs,” said Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation, in a statement.

Exxon’s move comes a month after liquor companies undertook similar initiatives to produce the product, including Bacardi and Anheuser Busch.

Hand sanitizers can be made out of two alcohols. One is similar to the ethanol in alcoholic beverages; the other, isopropyl alcohol, is usually derived from fossil fuels.

Exxon’s initial production run using isopropyl alcohol at the Baton Rouge site yielded 160,000 gallons of medical-grade sanitizer, or enough to fill almost 5 million 4-ounce bottles, according to the company. More batches are planned.

The company said it’s also increased its capability to manufacture specialized polypropylene used in medical masks and gowns, with the ability to make enough of the thermoplastic polymer to produce 200 million medical masks or 20 million gowns.

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