All around the world, energy and chemical companies are playing a central role in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Pipeline companies continue to reliably deliver the natural gas and petroleum needed to produce high-demand products such as hand sanitizer, face masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE); and manufacturers that receive the hydrocarbons have pivoted their operations to produce more of these critical items.
For instance, ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge, La., plant has become the world’s largest producer of isopropyl alcohol, the key ingredient in hand sanitizer and disinfectants. Isopropyl alcohol is created from hydrocarbons such as propane, one of the natural gas liquids (NGLs) transported by Energy Transfer’s Mariner East pipeline, which traverses Chester and Delaware counties before delivery to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex.
Propane is also the key feedstock to make polypropylene, a raw material used to make PPE, including N95 masks. In Delaware County, more than 40 employees of Braskem America lived at their Marcus Hook facility for a month, working around the clock to produce millions of pounds of polypropylene to ensure there would be no impact to their supply.
In addition to creating more PPE and supporting workers on the front lines of the pandemic, companies are also using their resources to assist those who are financially distressed in Delaware County communities. Sunoco and its parent company, Energy Transfer, which operates both the Mariner East pipeline system and the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, have made a number of donations to local first responders, healthcare workers, and food banks.
Through a donation to the Marcus Hook-Trainer and Upper Merion fire departments, Energy Transfer and Sunoco supplied eight pairs of military-grade, virtual-reality glasses that enable paramedics to remain hands-free when assessing a patient and communicate in real time with area hospitals. ThirdEye Gen’s X2 MR Glasses have a thermal sensor that can take a patient’s temperature without touching them, as well as facial-recognition technology that connects to a patient’s medical history within seconds. The two departments are the first in the nation to have access to the glasses.
“We can’t be happier to be a part of this new technology,” said Marcus Hook-Trainer Fire Chief Ken Smith. “We’re extremely happy to be on the forefront of technology and to begin implementing internally.”
Energy Transfer also purchased a $25,000 portable shelter for the Delaware County Major Incident Response Team (MIRT), which was activated recently in light of COVID-19. The 80 Delaware County MIRT officers – who are specially trained in hazardous response, managing chemical and biological incidents, decontamination procedures, and perimeter security – have received a significant increase in demand for services during the pandemic. The donated shelter will assist the team’s 24/7 efforts to protect and serve Delaware County.
“First responders are the backbone of our community, making major sacrifices to protect our health and safety around the clock. It is always our honor to support them, especially during the current pandemic,” said Joe McGinn, Vice President, Public Affairs for Energy Transfer. “First responders are often first in line to assist and assess a patient before they even get to the hospital. We are committed to diverting our resources to make that process more safe and efficient for first responders, whether it’s providing virtual reality glasses to allow hands-off, real-time assessment and communication with hospitals, or donating a portable shelter for the Delaware County MIRT team for their 24/7 efforts. Supporting Delaware County’s first responders is always a top priority, and especially now.”
Energy Transfer and Sunoco have also assisted local healthcare workers by donating more than 2,000 Sunoco fuel gift cards, worth more than $42,000, to healthcare workers at Philadelphia-area hospitals and retirement homes. Additionally, the companies continue to partner with Philabundance, the Chester County Food Bank, and other local food pantries.
From the pipelines that deliver critical NGLs to be processed, to the facilities producing the raw materials to make PPE, as well as the monetary support given to assist essential workers, petrochemical and energy companies have indeed played a key role in the fight against the pandemic.