ExxonMobil, perhaps best known by consumers for its gasoline and motor vehicle products, is also one of the world’s largest producers of isopropyl alcohol (IPA), a key ingredient in medical hand sanitizer, the latter of which is in great demand during this COVID-19 pandemic.
The company is striving to get this product moving where it’s needed most during this stressful time. Therefore, when the Chemistry Council of New Jersey reached out to its members indicating that an East Stroudsburg, PA, company – E.T. Browne – was looking to pivot its business from manufacturing its Palmer’s personal care products to hand sanitizer, ExxonMobil answered the call.
The global company, with a major research and development complex in Clinton, a lubricant plant in Paulsboro (that supplies Mobil 1 motor oil and other products) - and apprenticeship and research programs in place with Rowan University - invented IPA in 1920 at the former Standard Oil Bayway refinery. Today, the company’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana chemical facility is home to the world’s largest plant that produces IPA.
For ExxonMobil, supplying IPA is standard business, but doing so for E.T. Browne required a swift response and a high priority.
“Once we saw what E.T. Browne was facing, and what it was trying to achieve, we knew we needed to respond, and do it quickly,” said Greg Bass, Americas Fluids product manager, ExxonMobil Chemical Company.
Without IPA, E.T. Browne would not only be unable to make the hand sanitizer, but it also faced the prospect of shutting down its factory, which employs nearly 300 workers.
“Our business was facing extreme uncertainty – we had never seen anything like this,” said Jordan Nissensohn, director of special projects at E.T. Browne. “Pivoting to produce hand sanitizer, and securing the IPA that goes into it, is the biggest source of optimism we have today.”
The first shipment of E.T. Browne’s medical-grade hand sanitizer was expected to go out Friday, April 10, to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Health Network.
Andrew Sinclair, who heads Northeast public and government affairs for ExxonMobil, initially responded to the Chemistry Council’s request and reached out to E.T. Browne. “The company needed help and we answered the call,” he explained.
ExxonMobil is currently planning donations to other area hospitals.
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