• April 10, 2020

    Energy Innovation Being Put to Good Use

    Matt Letourneau

We are justifiably proud of the innovation that takes place on a daily basis in the energy industry. Through the development of technology and engineering know-how, American energy companies have allowed our nation to become a global leader in energy production, while reducing emissions and improving the environment. We’ve shared some of these stories in our EnergyInnovates initiative. 

Throughout the course of this year, it was our intention to continue to highlight the breakthrough technologies and talented people behind energy advances. But given the global coronavirus pandemic, our attention has shifted. The good news is that many of these same companies and people are putting their resources, expertise, and ingenuity to good use in the fight against COVID-19, and we’re excited to share those important stories instead. 

One of the most critical needs is hand sanitizer. As any consumer who has sought to purchase it knows, shelves are largely empty and supplies are hard to find. While this is certainly an issue for the average consumer, it is an even bigger issue for a wide range of essential employees, from health care workers, to law enforcement, to trash collectors. Because some of the raw materials are the same as those used in petroleum products, energy companies have stepped up to help.

Dow Chemical now has five sites in the U.S. and Europe producing hand sanitizer, with the capability to produce the equivalent of more than 880,000 8-ounce bottles over a four week period. And the best part? Some of the product is being donated to governments and hospitals. Other companies working on hand sanitizer production include ExxonMobil and Shell.

Another major issue is Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE. PPE is essential for health care workers to ensure they can treat patients without contracting or spreading disease, including the coronavirus. Hospitals, doctor’s offices and first responders around the nation are dealing with major PPE supply issues. 

Fortunately, ExxonMobil and the Global Center for Medical Innovation have announced a new partnership to rapidly develop and deploy a variety of PPE. This includes a new mask filtration system with disposable filters and reusable masks. The prototype is currently under evaluation from the FDA. Once approved, Exxon believes it can manufacture as many as 40,000 masks and filter cartridges an hour. 

In addition, in response to urgent needs from doctors and nurses who are directly treating COVID patients, DuPont has created a new supply chain to rapidly ramp up production of Tyvek® hazmat suits. These suits are made from polyethylene fibers (a byproduct of natural gas, as we discussed in our last blog post on the significant role oil and gas plays in the healthcare industry) to provide full body coverage and repel aerosols and fluids. 

Of course, energy companies are helping in many other ways, so stayed tuned for future blog posts on the energy industry’s response to COVID-19. But rest assured, the innovative and nimble manufacturing capabilities of energy companies are being put to good use to develop and deploy critical supplies to those who need them most.

The U.S. Chamber Foundation has a comprehensive tracker that shows the relief efforts the business community is making each day. We will continue to highlight the efforts undertaken by the energy industry during this difficult time and show that, while in the midst of this crisis, energy can and does continue to innovate.