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Emergency production of ethanol to contribute to combating virus transmission

The Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Carlsberg Foundation have donated DKK 17.5 million to establish a consortium comprising the Danish state, Carlsberg, Ørsted and Ree Holding, which will ensure emergency production of ethanol for disinfectants during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Ørsted.

The world market for supplying several key components to the healthcare system and society in general is under pressure. Denmark therefore needs 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 estimate the daily need for ethanol in Denmark to be 100,000 litres per day for disinfectants when society gradually emerges from lockdown. Currently, Denmark does not produce nearly enough ethanol and that makes Denmark dependent on international markets functioning properly and especially that cross-border transport networks are intact and that other countries do not impose export restrictions.

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 will form a new consortium under the Danish National Police for the emergency production of ethanol. The production will be 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, says: “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.”

The goal is to produce 36,000 litres of ethanol per day, which will meet about one third of the daily need in Denmark as a whole.

Lars Rebien Sørensen, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Novo Nordisk Foundation, says: “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, says: “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 ethanol will be produced 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 will be based on a fermented alcohol base from Carlsberg’s brewery in Fredericia. The alcohol base will be distilled to 90% ethanol and then processed into disinfectants. The initial ambition is to produce ethanol for 6 weeks.

A temporary consortium of Ørsted, Carlsberg, Ree Holding and the National Operational Staff (NOST), which meets when major crises and events occur in Denmark, will operate the plant and produce the ethanol.

As part of the consortium, Carlsberg has agreed to transform much of its production to supply the alcohol base on which the plant will run. Ten tankers will operate 24 hours a day to supply 1.4 million litres of alcohol base per week to keep the plant running. The first tankers were dispatched on Thursday, 2 April.

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

Further information

Carlsberg Foundation: Kirstine Rasmussen, Press Officer, [email protected], +45 4095 3823

Novo Nordisk Foundation: Christian Mostrup, Senior Programme Lead, [email protected], +45 3067 4805