By Stephanie Kelly
NEW YORK, Oct 8 (Reuters) – Red River Biorefinery in Grand Forks, North Dakota, came online in April, arguably the worst time for an ethanol facility to begin operating as the coronavirus pandemic sank fuel demand.
Instead of shutting like many ethanol facilities, the company switched focus from producing fuel ethanol to making high-grade alcohol for hand sanitizer, where demand surged during the pandemic as Americans scrambled to protect themselves against the coronavirus.
Red River and several other companies now view the hand sanitizer market as more than a temporary salve for weak fuel demand, making permanent investments in production of high-grade alcohol that meets standards for producing sanitizer.
In recent months Pacific Ethanol PEIX.O, Green Plains GPRE.O and Highwater Ethanol HEOL.PK have said they will boost capacity for high-grade alcohol.
“Our intent when we first went live was to be purely in the fuel