TVA Taps Distilleries for Hand Sanitizer

May 19, 2020 -- COVID-19 is no match for 160-proof alcohol. Distilleries around the world are blending gin, rum, vodka and whiskey with bitter denaturing solutions that transform liquor into undrinkable hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray.

With global demand straining supply chains throughout the nation, traditional disinfectants and sanitizers continue to be hard to come by. In an effort to keep all employees safe on the job, TVA has tapped the region’s distilleries, securing thousands of gallons of liquor-based cleaner and hand gels.

“It works and is very effective,” said Tony McMutuary, Sequoyah senior manager, Chemistry and Environmental. “It dries quickly.”

Gate 11 Distillery is one of four vendors that TVA is using to provide the fleet with hand sanitizer and disinfectant. In March, Gate 11 completed one of TVA’s first high-volume orders by filling two 250-gallon plastic totes with the product. TVA transported the containers to Sequoyah Nuclear Plant to support the Unit 2 refueling outage that concluded May 5.

According to Head Distiller Bill Lee, manufacturing cleaning product has become almost 100 percent of Gate 11’s business in this new COVID-19 environment. The distillery now serves TVA, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Volkswagen and emergency response teams throughout Hamilton County, Tennessee.

“We’ve called on distilleries all over the Tennessee Valley for this product,” said Wes Hale, senior contracts manager, Supply Chain. “We live in a great area to be able to secure safe, alternative hand sanitizer like this.”

In one instance, Supply Chain purchased liquor-based sanitizer in bulk from a distributor that secured product from a distillery in Culpeper, Virginia. The order shipped to Custom Werks in Chattanooga where it was repackaged in 8-ounce bottles and branded with custom TVA labels.

The distilled disinfectants and hand sanitizers will be readily available for employees for the foreseeable future as TVA enters into a phased, return-to-work approach for a limited number of the employees who have been working remotely.