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5/14/2020 | 2 MINUTE READ

ExxonMobil Collaborates with the Nonwoven Institute (NWI) to Help Accelerate Face Mask Production for Frontliners During the Coronavirus Crisis

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ExxonMobil has donated 146,000 lb of PP and PP-based performance polymers to NWI for nonwoven fabrics used in medical face masks in the fight against COVID-19

Houston-based ExxonMobil has quickly and effectively responded to  an initiative by long standing partner the Nonwovens Institute (NWI) which was looking for polymers to fabricate specialty nonwoven fabrics used for personal protective equipment (PPE). Currently celebrating its 60th year in the polypropylene business, ExxonMobil has more 50 years experience with both spunbond and meltbown  types of nonwovens and invented the meltblowing process in the late 1960s.

NWI is supplying the spunbond and meltblown nonwoven fabrics to manufacturers of medical masks, helping essential frontline medical workers get the PPE they need to stay protected against Covid-19.

From various inventories, ExxonMobil donated a combined total of 146,000 pounds of ExxonMobil PP3155, Achieve Advanced PP6926G2 and Vistamaxx 8880 performance polymers to LINC, a non-profit affiliate of NWI located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Supply chain logistics required coordination with ExxonMobil’s branded distributor Channel Prime Alliance which handled delivery of the product. Moreover, ExxonMobil also made several value chain introductions, connecting NWI with companies looking for high-quality nonwovens for PPE.


Said ExxonMobil’s John W. M. Roberts, strategic marketing executive Polypropylene, “When NWI reached out for support we had no hesitation in helping them. Having identified the location of the polymers, we mobilized our logistics network to make sure the product was delivered quickly and efficiently.”

The nonwoven fabrics were produced at the NWI facilities on the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus. Production requires incredibly specialized machinery and skilled operators which, combined with high-quality ExxonMobil PP, Achieve and Vistamaxx polymers, optimizes speed of production and nonwovens performance. Spunbond nonwovens are used for the outer layers of a variety of medical masks as they are breathable and have the strength to protect the inner layer by maintaining the integrity of the mask. Meltblown nonwovens are used in the inner layer because they provide an effective barrier to liquids and particulates, while being breathable.

Manufacturing response to COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonwoven fabrics were sent to mask manufacturing companies in North Carolina and across the United States. NWI also purchased assembly machines so that nonwovens could be converted into masks using local campus staff and volunteers, speeding up delivery to local medical facilities.

Said Bhaskar Venkatraman, ExxonMobil v.p. polypropylene, Vistamaxx and Adhesion. “This entire effort clearly illustrates the value of long-term collaborations between industry and academic institutions. In this instance, when there was a critical need to produce PPE so frontline workers can do their jobs more safely, these relationships enabled us to respond quickly and effectively to help society.”

Having joined the NWI in 2008, ExxonMobil has provided ongoing support to the Institute’s development including: product development programs; the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment; mentoring of students in related North Carolina State University graduate programs; guidance on Institute programs; and, training of ExxonMobil employees to better serve the market.