ExxonMobil boosts production of raw materials for medical masks, gowns and hand sanitiser

Published: 23 April 2020 - 2:30 a.m.
By: Martin Menachery

ExxonMobil said it has increased production of critical raw materials for masks, gowns and hand sanitiser used by medical professionals and first responders leading the efforts to combat the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The company has increased its capability to manufacture specialised polypropylene, used in medical masks and gowns, by about 1,000 tonnes per month, which is enough to enable production of up to 200 million medical masks, or 20 million gowns.

Monthly production of isopropyl alcohol – a key ingredient in many disinfectant and hand sanitiser products – has been increased by 3,000 tonnes, which is enough to enable production of up to 50 million 4-ounce bottles of medical-grade hand sanitiser.

We are increasing our manufacturing capabilities to meet this critical need to help keep doctors, nurses and first responders healthy and safe,” said Karen McKee, president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company. “Our team has been working around the clock, applying our engineering and technical know-how and working with our customers to make this happen. We are committed to doing our part to support the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The additional polypropylene will be made at sites in Baytown, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Singapore and help meet high demand for other critical hygiene and health care items. Production of isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is being maximised at the company’s site in Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile, the company is supporting development of innovative new products to help in the pandemic response. Working with the Global Center for Medical Innovation, ExxonMobil earlier this month announced multi-sector and joint-development projects to rapidly redesign and manufacture reusable personal protection equipment, such as face shields and masks, for health care workers.

As part of that effort, ExxonMobil is applying its deep knowledge and experience with polymer-based technologies, in combination with the centre, to facilitate development and expedite third-party production of safety equipment that can be sterilised and worn multiple times.

The centre is awaiting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for a new face mask design, which features a replaceable cartridge system that includes a filtration fabric. When approved, production will begin immediately and could produce as many as 40,000 ready-to-use masks and filter cartridges per hour.

Given the unprecedented global pandemic, isopropyl alcohol and polypropylene are being prioritised at chemical manufacturing facilities; however, ExxonMobil anticipates it will continue to meet its contractual commitments to manufacture other chemical products.

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