America’s fuels and petrochemicals companies do their part to fight COVID-19

Workforce |  5 min. read

America’s Fuel and Petrochemical Companies Are Pitching in To Support Health Care Workers and Communities

During these unprecedented times, the fuel and petrochemical industries have been designated critical by the Department of Homeland Security since the products they produce are essential to numerous aspects of society and the economy, including health care. In addition to providing fundamental services, fuel and petrochemical companies have stepped up and are choosing to support workers and communities in helping them deal with the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19. Companies are using the resources they have available to support health care workers, meet the need for hand sanitizers, support community charitable organizations, and provide resources for children’s education. Here are just a few examples of what companies are doing across the world.

Protecting and Supporting Healthcare Workers

Many petrochemical companies’ products are essential for the creation of medical equipment. For instance, LyondellBasell’s polypropylene resins are used to produce melt-blown fibers that provide filtration in facemasks, while polypropylene, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide are used to make medical syringes, medical test kits, soaps and disinfectants.

And as a part of their rigorous safety protocols, many companies in the fuel and petrochemical industries have stores of protective gear, including respiratory masks, to ensure that their employees can safely perform their duties. Some of them are now offering up these life-saving devices to health care workers.

  • Marathon Petroleum deployed its entire stock personal protective equipment (PPE), sending over 560,000 pieces—including N95 respirator masks and gloves—to hospitals and healthcare organizations nationwide.
  • In Kentucky, Westlake Chemical worked with one of its suppliers to obtain and donate approximately 400 respiratory masks to local hospitals.
  • DuPont is expediting the production and delivery of Tyvek hazmat suits for health care workers. These polyethylene suits, which are made from the petrochemical ethylene, repel aerosols and fluid and in conjunction with masks and gloves are critical in keeping medical personnel from being exposed. The company expects to deliver more than 350,000 suits each week to the Federal Emergency Management Agency beginning the week of March 30.
  • Honeywell has announced that it is adding an N95 face mask production operation to its Phoenix Engines campus in Arizona to help address the shortage. The new operation, it is estimated, will employ 500 people or more. The company hopes to ramp up production to supply 20 million masks to stockpile with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which the company has a contract with.
  • Flint Hills Resources’ Longview, Texas chemical plant, is producing polypropylene that is being used to make critical components for COVID-19 testing kits, while Flint Hill Resource’s Peru, Illinois team is producing the expandable polystyrene being used to transport COVID-19 test kits and therapies to healthcare professionals on the front lines of this battle.
  • ExxonMobil and the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) have announced a multi-sector initiative to redesign and manufacture reusable personal protection equipment such as face shields and N95 masks, critically needed by healthcare workers challenged by COVID-19. ExxonMobil is applying its experience with polymer-based technologies in combination with GCMI to facilitate development and expedite third-party production of innovative safety equipment that can be sterilized and worn multiple times. Manufacturers indicate they will be able to produce as many as 40,000 ready-to-use masks and filter cartridges per hour. ExxonMobil is also delivering polypropylene from its sites in Baytown, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana to be used in the production of face shields. Fifty-thousand face shields have been produced to date with upwards of 170,000 manufactured per hour as production gears up.
  • Kiewit donated 2,500 Tyvek suits and 500 N-95 masks to Driscoll Children’s Hospital. Several hundred N-95 masks were also donated to hospitals in Omaha, Nebraska and Denver, Colorado, which included Nebraska Medicine, Methodist Hospital, Skyridge Medical Center and Presbyterian St Luke’s.
  • Westlake is working with one of its suppliers, was able to obtain and donate approximately 400 respiratory masks in Kentucky. These masks will be used by local medical professionals when performing necessary surgical procedures.

Meeting the Need for Hand Sanitizers

Petrochemical companies are also a driving force behind efforts to ensure that there is sufficient hand sanitizer and cleaning agents for hospital and emergency personnel. Since hand sanitizer is made with ethanol or isopropanol—both of which can be made by petrochemical companies —the industry has rallied to meet this exploding demand.

  • Dow announced that it has coordinated with state and federal agencies to repurpose its Auburn, Michigan, and South Charleston, West Virginia, manufacturing sites to produce hand sanitizer, estimating that each facility will produce roughly 15,000 pounds of hand sanitizer per week. The hand sanitizer will be donated to the State of Michigan, hospitals and first responders in the Great Lakes Bay Region, the State of West Virginia, and the cities of Charleston and South Charleston in West Virginia.
  • Valero announced that its ethanol plant in Hartley, Iowa has begun production of hand sanitizer. Valero’s bulk production will help alleviate the supply shortages health care organizations and first responders are facing as they combat this virus. Valero expects to distribute its sanitizer to its ethanol plants and refineries and on to local hospitals and emergency care providers.
  • Flint Hills Resources’ Longview, Texas, chemical plant is producing polypropylene that is being used to make critical components for the packaging of cleaning products and even the plastic closures for hand sanitizers.
  • ExxonMobil Baton Rouge is providing isopropyl alcohol (IPA), a key ingredient of hand sanitizer, to Louisiana’s Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). The IPA unit at the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Chemical Plant is the largest producer of isopropyl alcohol in the world.

Supporting Community Charitable Organizations

Fuel and petrochemical companies are integral parts of the communities that their employees call home, and are activating quickly to help meet their neighbors’ needs in the face of COVID-19 crisis.

  • Valero has committed to contribute $1.8 million to help communities during the pandemic, with funds going to the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, Meals on Wheels, University Health System Foundation, Family Services Assistance, Family Violence Prevention Services, Respite Care of San Antonio, ChildSafe, and Haven for Hope, among others. The company has also donated 10,000 fuel cards to organizations in their communities that rely on transportation.
  • Dow similarly has set aside $3 million to aid COVID-19 relief efforts, with funds going both to global relief organizations as well as nonprofits in communities where Dow operates.
  • Chevron has donated more than $2 million to local relief efforts in several states and have committed an additional $2 million to match employee contribution to U.S.-based non-profits. Donations have been made to foodbanks in California, Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
  • Phillips 66 Ferndale has given $60,000 to the Whatcom County, Washington, coordinated COVID-19 response unit to help provide software at the emergency operations facility, a unified command website, and volunteer training.
  • Marathon Petroleum Foundation donated $1 millionto the American Red Cross to help supply critical resources necessary to safely provide disaster relief and support to those in crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Providing Resources for Children’s Education

The nation’s fuel and petrochemical companies are also prioritizing support for children, a vulnerable population during this pandemic.

  • Phillips 66 is working with the Children’s Museum of Houston, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and iWrite to continue literacy education while students are out of school. The Children’s Museum of Houston will host a Daily Virtual Story Time in both English and Spanish, sponsored by Phillips 66.
  • Phillips 66 is also supporting the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s effort to order 100,000 new books to donate to the Houston Independent School District (ISD). In partnership with the Houston Food Bank, these books will be distributed to families with pre-K to eighth-grade children as they pick up food at the designated school locations. More than 75% of children in Houston ISD are on the National School Lunch program and will be using this program while schools are closed. Meanwhile, iWrite is partnering with Kids Meals to include literacy journals, sponsored by Phillips 66, during their meal distributions to children in Houston.
  • CITGO has partnered with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to donate 150 Kindles to the Houston and Alief Independent School Districts to help support low-income students’ e-learning needs during the COVID-19 school closures and subsequent move to remote learning platforms.
  • Chevron donated $500,000 to DonorsChoose’s Keep Kids Learning initiative, which will help provide teachers across the U.S. in highest-need schools with grants to purchase essential supplies for students who are now out of school.

Fuel and petrochemical companies across the nation are working hard to meet the needs of their employees, their communities and their country, and will continue to bring their strengths to bear in these unprecedented times.

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