COVID-19 and its impact on Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA)

April 27, 2020

Since it was first registered in China last year, the Covid-19 coronavirus has spread across the world and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. However, differences in testing mean that the number of cases may be underestimated for some countries. Till now more than 2,000,000 cases, more than 170,000 deaths occurred all over the globe. USA, Italy, Spain, France and many more countries were hit hard by this deadly virus. The virus originated in China, has now spread to all over the globe.

As a result, the consumer market for health and hygiene products has increased with an outstanding rate. Consumers and retailers across the countries had complained about the shortage and non-availability of hand sanitiser and soaps after coronavirus crisis. The hand sanitizers and similar products sales have actually expanded abnormally across international markets since the COVID-19 outbreak began in January.

According to some statistics, sales of hand sanitizer in U.K rose up over 200% in the month of February. Similarly, the demand of hand sanitizers also shoots up in Asian countries. Italy which is hit very hard by this deadly virus, also witnessed significant rise in demand of sanitizers, sales of hand soap were up for almost 29%. Hand sanitizer sales soared by more than 1,500% as compared to the same week a year earlier. Due to rising demand of sanitizers and supply-demand imbalance, the prices of alcohol based sanitizer soared significantly globally. The government of many countries had declared sanitizers as an 'essential commodities to prevent hoarding and price manipulation of such goods. It placed price limits on alcohols used in making hand sanitizers.

There are mainly two types of alcohol used in preparation of alcohol-based sanitizer, Ethanol and ISO Propyl Alcohol (IPA) (final concentration of at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol). IPA (isopropyl alcohol), which is also an essential ingredient for disinfectants, can benefit from the growing demand for cleaning products amid the Covid-19 outbreak. It is also used in the manufacture of a wide variety of industrial and household chemicals and is a common ingredient in chemicals such as antiseptics, disinfectants, and detergents. Use of IPA in medical as rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting pads typically contain a 60–70% solution of isopropyl alcohol in water as mentioned earlier; in automotive, isopropyl alcohol is a major ingredient in "gas dryer" fuel additives and there are other common uses like cleaning eyeglasses, electrical contacts, audio or video tape heads, DVD and other optical disc lenses, removing thermal paste from heatsinks on CPUs.

As the demand of hand sanitizers and disinfectants increases, the demand of IPA also goes up. For example, IPA prices which were around Rs 65 per kg, have increased to almost Rs 300 per kg in one month in India. However, the government put the cap limit on the prices of alcohols including IPA, which is used to manufacture sanitizer and disinfectants.

Looking forward to this pandemic situation many chemical companies have shifted their production at plants around the world to meet the global demand for hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants, while regulators play their part in easing restrictions during the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.

BASF has relocated several tons of isopropanol to produce hand sanitizer. Dow Chemical changed production at five of its factories worldwide to produce around 200 tons of disinfectant per week. Not only Dow Chemical, which makes isopropyl alcohol, has worked with authorities in Michigan and West Virginia, as well as with the US Food and Drug Administration, the Alcohol and Tobacco and Tax Agency and the Department of Security. Internally, in order to meet regulatory requirements to increase production. INEOS, a European producer of the two main raw materials needed for hand sanitizers - isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and ethanol - has announced plans to build a factory in the UK to produce one million bottles of disinfectant per month.

Not only this, other industries also came forward to help the world to fight against COVID-19. A change in Bacardi's production at the world's largest premium rum distillery in Cataño, Puerto Rico is helping to supply ethanol needed to produce the much-needed hand sanitizers that are in high demand because of COVID-19. Distillers Turn Whiskey and Gin themselves into Hand Sanitizers manufacturing. LVMH has converted their perfume factories to make hand sanitizer. Beverage companies are also stepping in, offering the supply of extra neutral alcohol (ENA) - an essential raw material derived from molasses and sugar grains, to manufacture disinfectants. Nowadays, IPA is known more of hand sanitizers and disinfectant but also being used in paints & coatings, inks, cosmetics and personal care industry.

PCIPL provides raw materials such as Ethanol, ISO Propyl Alcohol (IPA), Chlorhexidine Gluconate, Triclosan to manufacture sanitizers and disinfectants. The company is catering to 10+ industries such as home care, paint, ink and coatings, flavours and fragrances, foods and nutrition,  water treatment and mining, etc. help in further offering strong value propositions relevant to the industry segment. 

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