Tamil Nadu

Technical snag halts oxygen production in Sterlite Copper’s plant

A view of the Sterlite Copper Plant in Thoothukudi.   | Photo Credit: N. RAJESH

The euphoria triggered by the generation of oxygen in Sterlite Copper’s oxygen plant for saving the COVID-19 patients was short-lived as an unexpected technical snag in the oxygen plant paralysed roduction late Thursday night.

Consequently, the planned second load of oxygen from the plant on Thursday night could not be realised.

The plant, after being idle for nearly three years, started generating oxygen since Wednesday evening and the first tanker with the 4.80 tonnes of oxygen produced in the plant took the life-saving gas to Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital only on Thursday morning. It was expected that the plant, which would generate 5 to 6 tonnes a day for the first few days, would produce 35 tonnes of oxygen from Saturday / Sunday (May 15 / 16).

However, the technical glitch in the cold box of the oxygen plant halted the oxygen production in the evening, much to the embarrassment of the plant administration. The Sterite Copper management, however, said it had anticipated the technical snag given the fact that the plant was idle for the past three years.

“A technical snag has developed in the cold box of the oxygen plant, leading to a temporary pause in production. The possibility of minor technical fluctuations was anticipated given that the plant has been unattended for three years. In preparation of this scenario, a technical expert group has been onsite from day one to monitor the situation and provide real-time solutions for resuming production at the earliest. We plan to return to stabilised production soon,” an official statement from Sterlite Copper said.

Since this oxygen plant was expected to produce 35 tonnes of oxygen a day, the District Collectors of the southern districts heaved a sigh of relief as nearly 3,000 COVID-19 patients from four southern districts, who are undergoing treatment in the government and the government medical college hospitals, are in need of oxygen.

“While Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital is in need of 8 KL oxygen every day to save the 940 COVID-19 patients, Thoothukudi Medical College Hospital is in need of around 6 KL oxygen a day. And the Kanniyakumari District Medical College Hospital at Aasaaripllam in Nagercoil, treating nearly 1,000 COVID-19 patients, too is desperately waiting for oxygen. So, this technical glitch is an agonising setback,” said a senior revenue official here.

Sources in Sterlite Copper said repairing of the cold box was started immediately by its technicians and the nature of the problem was being studied. “We’ve got the men and the material to solve this crisis… Anyway, it will consume at least six or seven days to resume the operation of the plant,” the sources said.

Even as the technicians are working overtime to solve this crisis, the second oxygen plant with the capacity of 535 tonnes a day is also being overhauled to ensure early generation of oxygen, sources said.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 3:02:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/technical-snag-halts-oxygen-production-in-sterlite-coppers-plant/article34556940.ece

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