Ethanol makers see demand surge on hand sanitizer stockpiling

Shelves of a CVS pharmacy are stripped of hand sanitizer amid novel coronavirus fears in New York ( Catherine Koppel - REUTERS )

By Stephanie Kelly and Mark Weinraub

March 9 (Reuters) - Some ethanol producers worldwide said demand is up for their products due to customers stockpiling hand sanitizer - which can be made using the biofuel - as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

The coronavirus has infected more than 110,000 people in 105 countries and territories and 3,800 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Governments and health agencies have advised people to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer to curb the virus's spread, prompting an increase in demand for ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, industrial alcohol and denatured alcohol, used to make many hand sanitizers.

Minneapolis-based Cargill, which produces and commercializes ethanol, said on Monday that demand for its denatured ethanol in Europe has doubled since last month.

Tereos, one of the largest producers of bioethanol alcohol in the European Union and headquartered in northern France, said it also saw a spike in demand and had a special order for 20,000 hectoliters (528,000 gallons) of additional denatured alcohol in the past days.

The company is unblocking some of its stocks and making these requests a priority, a company spokesperson said in an email.

Meanwhile, Sacramento-based producer Pacific Ethanol confirmed that industrial alcohol sales are rising, said Paul Koehler, vice president of commodities and corporate development.

Toiletries and cosmetics, which include hand sanitizer, account for almost a quarter of U.S. end-markets for industrial alcohol, according to the most recent data available from the Renewable Fuels Association, a U.S. trade group.

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