With the advent of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for medical oxygen increased 7 times from 700 tonnes per day to 5000 tonnes per day in April. To bridge the demand and supply gap, the Centre sanctioned the installation of PSA’s in many states at the earliest and urged the relevant industries to initiate the production of medical oxygen.
With this, the medical oxygen availability has increased to 9,200 tonnes a day within a month, as per a report in Business Today. Siddharth Jain, Director, Inox Air Products, the largest manufacturer of industrial and medical gases in India said that the issue of oxygen shortage in the country will be mitigated within a few days.
The excess demand for medical oxygen was unprecedented as even during the peak of the first COVID-19 wave in India, maximum demand was not more than 3,000 tonnes a day.
Role of Inox in bridging the demand-supply gap
The company is currently responsible for creating over 75 per cent of the existing medical oxygen infrastructure in India.
Talking about the obstacles to supply medical oxygen across the nation and the solution for the same, Jain in a virtual press conference informed, “The main issue was in supply chain as liquid medical oxygen has to be transported in cryogenic tankers, which normally cater to a 200 kilometre radius. With the increased demand even in remote areas, now tankers have to cater to over 1,000 kilometres radius. India had only 1,200 such tankers before the current crisis and permission was given recently to convert another 1,200 nitrogen and argon carrying tankers to transport medical oxygen. Besides, some 40 plus such tankers have been imported.”
“With the point-to-point green corridor ‘Oxygen Express’ trains shuttling between most affected areas, and with Airforce, Navy helping with the transport, the logistics issues are more or less resolved. Now, we can cater to even remotest areas even if the wave spreads to non-affected states,” he added.
Inox Air Products produces about 2,600 tonnes oxygen a day catering the demand of over 26 states. According to Jain, the capacity has been increased to around 40 percent in the past three years and has announced an investment of Rs 2,000 crore to increase capacity in the next few years.
It takes about two years to set up a new oxygen plant, Jain informed.
Oxygen manufacturing in the country
Most of the oxygen manufacturing units in the country are concentrated in the North and East; close to steel plants which are the main consumers of oxygen, as per INOX in the Business Today report.
Maharashtra, which has the highest demand mainly in Mumbai and Pune, produces around 1,500 tonnes of medical oxygen. Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh follow. About 25% of all production is consumed by Maharashtra and Gujarat alone.
Talking about fulfilling the demand of the capital city and allotment process, Jain said, “Delhi does not have a manufacturing unit and currently, supplies are 140 tonnes a day, including 450 tonnes supplied in the last three days. Earlier, companies were supplying medical oxygen directly to hospitals. Now, the Centre monitors production and allocates oxygen to states depending on the number of cases and situation.”