An Aberdeen oil worker who was recently made redundant from Halliburton due to Covid-19 has now set up his own hand sanitiser business to help tackle the virus.
Marko Steiger was a fluids engineer with the energy services giant, which he joined in September last year, but was among the thousands cut from the industry in response to the latest downturn.
However, the 30-year-old is now using his talents to produce hand sanitiser out of Peterhead via his new firm Palm Safe, aiming for revenue of more than £1million in the first six months.
He said: “Obviously redundancy is a difficult time but something I’ve learned to expect from the 2014 downturn.
“As with most people in the industry I didn’t expect such a rapid decline in business however I don’t fault Halliburton for taking such drastic measures since this is the nature of the oil and gas sector.
“Growing up in the US I’ve learned when things go bad there is always an opportunity whether it is in the same industry or switching 180 degrees and starting something new.”
Mr Steiger has been donating products to the NHS after noticing friends in healthcare were struggling to acquire hand sanitiser, leading to the new business.
Working with a friend, Palm Safe has now also set up a website for a new consumer line for businesses seeking to acquire their products, expecting to shift thousands of units in the coming months.
He said: “At first it started as a side project with my housemate, we both have some friends that work in healthcare and they were struggling to get hand sanitiser, so we started researching and experimenting.
“A lot of companies are selling the simple hand sanitiser recommended by the world health organisation.
“It is easy to make and functional, but it can be pretty harsh on the skin when used frequently. We bought some equipment and essentially turned our kitchen into a science lab.”
The biggest issue has been the soaring cost of alcohol due to global demand being “off the scale” with a supply shortage.
The firm can supply up to 50tonnes per month to customers on a 3-5 day notice thanks to an arrangement with a bottling warehouse in Peterhead.
Born in Germany, Mr Steiger grew up in the US before moving to Aberdeen to study in 2018 where he plans to stay for the foreseeable future.
He had been sent over for training in Houston at Halliburton’s mud school prior to the oil price crash.
“At work I mix chemicals and create reactions. The process for hand sanitiser gel is not much different,” he said.
“To get the sanitiser to gel is a bit of a fine balance and it took some experimenting to get it right. The alcohol concentration is also important, and we have made the hand sanitiser 70% alcohol by volume which is strong compared to some of the other options available on the market.
“Aloe Vera helps moisturise the skin and counter the effect of the alcohol and our consumer range is perfumed to leave the hands smelling nice and fresh.”
The pair have set up a new website for the consumer range but can also deliver in bulk via www.handsanitisegel.co.uk