Tamil Nadu

Oxygen production needs to be augmented

A worker fills medical oxygen cylinders to be transported to hospitals amid Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic at a facility on the outskirts of Chennai on April 24, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Tamil Nadu’s current daily oxygen manufacturing capacity of 400 metric tonnes, though comfortable, should be augmented amid the surge in COVID-19 cases, according to industry.

The State recently informed the Madras High Court that the current usage of oxygen was to the extent of 250 metric tonnes a day and that it had a storage capacity of 1,167 metric tonnes.

Oxygen production needs to be augmented

On Sunday, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said oxygen consumption in Tamil Nadu had already reached 310 metric tonnes, and the State would need 450 metric tonnes soon. He stressed the need to make available adequate oxygen because of a high number of oxygen-dependent COVID-19 cases and urged the Centre to cancel the diversion to other States.

On Saturday, the State told oxygen manufacturers to mull over ways to increase production.

“About 20 metric tonnes of capacity is available in industries, but they don’t have the licence to produce medical oxygen. The government should act quickly and issue the licence...,” says R. Kannan, past president, All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association, New Delhi.

Oxygen is distributed to private hospitals and nursing homes through a slew of refillers, who purchase liquid oxygen from bulk producers such as INOX Air Products Limited and National Oxygen Limited, he points out.

Mr. Kannan runs two plants — TN Oxygen Private Limited, Ayanambakkam, which has a capacity of 8 metric tonnes a day, and Tamilnadu Air Products Private Limited, Gummidipoondi, which has a capacity of 4 metric tonnes a day. “Earlier, the Ayanambakkam plant was setting aside 35% of its production for the medical needs and the rest for the industrial use. The supply to industries was stopped on April 23, and now 100% is going towards the medical requirements,” he says.

“The Gummidipoondi plant was under shut-down last year, and we have restarted it only this month and have been running it to full capacity since April 23,” he says. He says the non-availability of cylinders is a challenge. The supply of liquid oxygen to the refillers has been cut down, resulting in a serious shortage of oxygen at private hospitals.

Mr. Kannan says the State is not providing financial assistance for augmenting capacity, and it should look at using idle capacity available with the likes of Sterlite Copper.

JSW Steel has been supplying liquid medical oxygen from across its plants in India, including Salem. While the company does not share details of Tamil Nadu-specific capacity and supply, it is targeting to supply 20,000 tonnes of liquid oxygen in April from its three plants in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka. JSW Steel has said it has been supplying 600 tonnes daily from its plants in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Kerala, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Marathwada. An industry executive explains that any steel plant requires only gaseous oxygen, and most plants have captive gaseous oxygen units. A fraction can be converted into liquid medical oxygen, which all steel players are sending to the government and hospitals, he notes. This will not impact steel production.

Industry Secretary N. Muruganandam says his Department is working closely with oxygen producers to augment capacity by providing whatever clearances they require. INOX Air Products is setting up a plant at Hosur, which would take a few months to come up, and the Industries Department is doing all it can to support the project. The Department is helping in identifying land and getting consent to establish the plant.

“We are also helping another big firm in land identification at Ranipet. Another firm, called Praxair, wanted some clearances which were pending, and we got it done for them.”

Mr. Muruganandam says lead time for establishing additional capacities is more. “Currently no incentives are offered, but we are in touch with industry players for support.”

Senior officials of the State government whom The Hindu spoke to said that as on date, the situation was manageable. A source said that in the 48 hours. a list of industrial oxygen manufacturers in the State had been collated.

“Licences are being given to them to make medical oxygen, and we are procuring from them. The Industries Department has been giving clearances,” the source said.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 10:38:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/oxygen-production-needs-to-be-augmented/article34409815.ece

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