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Emergency production of ethanol

Denmark had to increase its domestic production in several areas to get through the COVID-19 crisis safely and as quickly as possible. Ethanol, which is used for producing disinfectants, is one of these areas.

Denmark’s authorities estimated the daily need for ethanol in Denmark to be 100,000 litres per day for disinfectants when society gradually emerges from lockdown. Previously, Denmark did not produce nearly enough ethanol and that made Denmark very vulnerable.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Carlsberg Foundation have therefore donated DKK 17.5 million to a consortium comprising the Danish state, Carlsberg, Ørsted and Ree Holding, which forms a new consortium under the Danish National Police for the emergency production of ethanol. The production is being used in disinfectants such as hand sanitizer, which are essential for limiting the transmission of viruses in hospitals, by the emergency preparedness services and in Denmark’s companies.

Commenting on the project, Simon Kollerup, Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, said: “As Minister, I am incredibly proud to see how Danish companies work together, take responsibility and help society when needed. We are in a situation that requires extraordinary measures and new cross-cutting collaborations to solve our challenges. I think this is a great example of what the Danish spirit can accomplish. This collaboration will create a product that is extremely necessary right now.”

Lars Rebien Sørensen, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Novo Nordisk Foundation, said: “Denmark does not currently produce enough ethanol to meet the demand for disinfectants, a situation that this fantastic initiative and collaboration can rapidly help to mitigate.”

Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Carlsberg Foundation, said: “We are delighted that we have succeeded in bringing together some of the largest companies and foundations in Denmark behind a decisive and swift effort to deliver disinfectants to Denmark’s hospitals. This shows that Denmark has numerous societal pillars that can and will contribute when it matters.”

The production of ethanol took place at Ørsted’s former demonstration plant for producing second-generation bioethanol located in Kalundborg. On 31 March 2020, the plant was sold to a newly established company under Ree Holding. Ørsted’s employees have contributed to starting and operating the plant, which Ree Holding will operate and make available going forward. The production is based on a fermented alcohol base from Carlsberg’s brewery in Fredericia. The alcohol base is distilled to 90% ethanol and then processed into disinfectants.

The members of the consortium will not profit from producing the ethanol.