The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented international shortage of hand sanitizer and disinfectant. LyondellBasell employees around the world are rising to the challenge to produce alcohol-based hand or surface disinfectants, committed to keeping our frontline employees and communities safe.
Hand sanitizer and surface disinfectants are recommended to kill viruses. “Legislators allowed the chemical industry to produce these chemicals once the COVID-19 pandemic had a noticeable impact on supply, provided health and safety-related issues have been met,” said Shahram Mihan, manager of catalyst systems research for LyondellBasell in Frankfurt, Germany.
800 gallons produced
LyondellBasell sites such as Carrington, UK; Frankfurt and Kerpen TC, Germany; Ferrara, Italy; Gempol, Indonesia; Channelview, Texas, Cincinnati Technology Center, and Houston Technology Center, U.S., came up with an in-house solution to produce sanitizers on site with existing equipment. In total, nearly 800 gallons (approximately 3,000 liters) have been made.
The products are manufactured with great diligence using the same high quality and safety standards we apply for all our manufacturing processes. Ethanol or isopropyl alcohol forms the base of each of these sanitizers. Other chemicals are added to increase the solubility of the active ingredients or to inactivate contaminating bacterial spores. The ready-to-use sanitizer is then bottled into large volume containers or small dispensers for personal use.
A boost of morale
Ingredients for sanitizers are in short supply, but innovative thinking allowed for the reallocation of resources. “Luckily, we were able to obtain an additional 800 liters of pure ethanol to start production in a unit normally used for the production of catalyst components,” said Mihan.
“The sanitizer is used throughout the site and helps to maintain the high hygiene standards to limit the spread of this pandemic,” said David Royle, LyondellBasell site process engineer in Carrington. “Providing the sanitizer and surface disinfectant keeps our people working, and it has been a boost for morale because people feel like they can help out in a time where everyone feels uncertain. By supplying our own need, we take a sizeable volume of demand out of the short market leaving more supply for, for example, hospitals.”
The power of many
The production also presents a great example of LyondellBasell’s core value; what the company calls “the power of many”. In the U.S., some sites have formed an “invisible supply chain” to work together for the production of hand sanitizer. In Texas, the Channelview Complex (CVO) provided isopropyl alcohol to the Houston Technology Center (HTC), where they then made batches of hand sanitizer and distributed it back to CVO when supplies were low. The Cincinnati Technology Center (CTC) produced one-gallon plastic containers to hold the hand sanitizer that works with the pump dispensers HTC purchased.
While the initial intention was for internal use, LyondellBasell has been able to also lend a helping hand to support surrounding communities. Working with local county judges, LyondellBasell delivered approximately 240 gallons of hand sanitizer produced at HTC to Matagorda and Harrison Counties, in southeast Texas. Both counties were in need of the product to protect first responders, healthcare workers and others within the county government.