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ExxonMobil Starts Making Hand Sanitizer, Following Liquor Companies

ExxonMobil has reconfigured a facility in Louisiana to manufacture medical-grade hand sanitizer, with a production target of 160,000 gallons, to be donated to health care providers and first responders.

ExxonMobil's shift to sanitizer comes as oil companies are squeezed by plummeting demand, a global oil glut and rock-bottom crude prices.

Liquor companies made a similar pivot more than a month ago, after shortages of hand sanitizer were first becoming apparent.

Bacardi shifted production at its rum distillery in Puerto Rico to make and donate hand sanitizer; Anheuser Busch InBev repurposed its process for making non-alcoholic beer to create sanitizer to give away; and small craft distilleries around the country figured out how to make and package hand sanitizer, often donating it to their local communities.

Hand sanitizer can be made out of either ethyl alcohol, like the ethanol in alcoholic beverages, or isopropyl alcohol, which is typically derived from fossil fuels.

ExxonMobil has long manufactured isopropyl alcohol as one of its many products, and in late March, it announced publicly that it was helping with the coronavirus effort by continuing to manufacture isopropyl alcohol and "providing it to the customers and areas that need it most."

On April 24, the company announced the new measure to create hand sanitizer in-house and donate it to the front lines.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.