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VERBIO rolls out disinfectant production in Zörbig and Schwedt

Playing its part in the fight against COVID-19, Germany-headed independent biodiesel, ethanol, and biogas major VERBIO Vereinigte BioEnergy AG (VERBIO) has set up production lines to produce disinfectants at its Zörbig and Schwedt ethanol facilities to help meet the needs of hospitals and pharmacies. From the bioethanol otherwise used as a biofuel, a hand disinfectant is being produced in accordance with the WHO recommendations.

Delivery of the first batch disinfectant produced at VERBIO’s Zörbig ethanol plant was on March 24, 2020 (photo courtesy VERBIO).

In Germany, VERBIO produces bioethanol at its biorefineries in Schwedt/Oder, Brandenburg, and Zörbig, Saxony-Anhalt, which is normally used as a fuel in the transportation sector. In addition, the company also produces biodiesel and pharmaceutical-grade glycerine at its biodiesel plants in Schwedt and Bitterfeld, Saxony-Anhalt.

This means that important raw materials for the production of disinfectants are already available in the company’s own product range.

Immediately after the scarcity of disinfectants became known, we set all levers in motion to realize the technical feasibility of changing production from bioethanol as fuel to bioethanol as the basis for disinfectants. At the same time, we clarified the legal framework and applied for a corresponding special permit from the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This has been granted and we are now allowed to manufacture a disinfectant for hand disinfection in accordance with the WHO recommendation and deliver it to hospitals and pharmacies, said Professor Dr Oliver Lüdtke, Technical Director at VERBIO.

Overcoming challenges

The team around Dr Wolfram Klein, Managing Director, VERBIO Zörbig GmbH set up production and bottling line for the disinfectant at the Zörbig site in just a few days and production of disinfectant came underway om March 24, 2020.

Monitoring disinfectant quality (photo courtesy VERBIO).

What sounds simple, however, was a real challenge.

Bioethanol, which is used as a biofuel, is not tasteless and odourless. The entire manufacturing process had to be changed to meet this important requirement, explained Dr Klein.

In addition, VERBIO had to set up a new 24-hour filling line along with the corresponding logistics for commercial packaging units in the disinfectant production area at short notice.

We usually deliver our bioethanol in tankers or tank trucks to our customers, the oil companies. We now offer disinfectants in 10-liter and 20-liter canisters and 220-liter barrels. That’s a big difference, said Dr Klein.

Ramping up production

Disinfectant production is in full swing at the Zörbig site so that VERBIO is able to serve nationwide inquiries from hospitals and pharmacies – 40 000 litres of disinfectant are currently produced per week with production quantities gradually being ramped up.

A second production line is to go into operation next week at the VERBIO Schwedt site. This will double the disinfectant production capacity to at least 80 000 litres per week. Marking the occasion Klaus-Dieter Bettien, Managing Director of VERBIO Schwedt GmbH, donated 500 litres of disinfectant from its own production to the city of Schwedt.

VERBIO has donated 500 litres of disinfectant from its own production to the city of Schwedt. The company is now producing WHO compliant disinfectant at both of its ethanol plants in Germany (photo courtesy VERBIO).

The donated disinfectant was handed over to the Mayor of Schwedt, Jürgen Polzehl, and the local fire brigade, which is responsible for distribution to public and non-profit organizations.

With the production expansion at the Schwedt site, we will be able to provide even better help in the short term in containing the corona pandemic, said Klaus-Dieter Bettien.

As private and business mobility is being restricted by the corona pandemic, a decrease in the amount of bioethanol required in the transport sector can be expected, at least temporarily. VERBIO estimates that there are sufficient quantities available for the disinfectant production until further notice. By doing so, the company shows that in difficult times it can use its skills quickly and adeptly to support society.

As a company, we bear social responsibility. That is why we accepted the challenge of the production changeover and made it possible, which was judged by the political decision-makers to be too complex. Our team has once again demonstrated its technological and organizational skills and demonstrated great commitment, ended a proud Claus Sauter, CEO, VERBIO.

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