COVID-19 brought about a collapse in fuel demand across the U.S., pushing many ethanol facilities to either slow down or halt their production. Reuters says many ethanol facilities switched their focus from producing ethanol to manufacturing high-grade alcohol hand sanitizers. Demand for the product skyrocketed during COVID as Americans hurried to grab protection against the coronavirus.
Several companies are beginning to view the hand sanitizer market as more than a temporary band-aid against lower demand for fuel. Many are making permanent investments in the production of high-grade alcohol that meets standards for producing the sanitizer. Companies like Pacific Ethanol, Green Plains, and Highwater Ethanol have all said they’re boosting the capacity to produce high-grade alcohol. Those announcements seem to indicate that some producers see more profitability in hand cleanliness because of COVID-19 than they do in transportation fuels.
Fuel ethanol production around the country has bounced back from the spring doldrums, hitting 923,000 barrels per day, up from 537,000 in April. The Energy Information Administration says that the number is still four percent lower than the same time last year.