Indian government in talks with steel mills, oil refineries to boost oxygen supplies to tackle second wave

Wednesday, 14 April 2021 16:29:13 (GMT+3)   |   Kolkata

The Indian government has started talking to industry including steel producers, seeking greater access to oxygen supplies to bolster hospitals tackling the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, SteelOrbis had learned from government circles on Wednesday, April 14.

With India becoming the second-worst affected country after the US since early March, the health ministry has started tapping into surplus oxygen-producing capacities at steel mills and oil refineries and to divert the surplus to government-run hospitals across the country.

It is estimated by the government that oxygen manufacturing capacity in the country is around 7 billion mt, half of which is used for industrial purposes, while the balance is available for medical purposes.

The government is talking to industry to ensure that at least 20-25 percent of oxygen-producing capacities available at steel mills and oil refineries can be diverted for medical usage, government sources said.

The official said that, while steel mills have assured the government that they would divert large volumes of oxygen from their plants for medical usage, the key challenge is transportation - while steel mills are concentrated in and around the eastern state of Odisha, Covid-19 cases have been rising exponentially in the western state of Maharashtra and hence the latter’s demand for oxygen.

According to a statement from Bhilai Steel Plant, part of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), liquid oxygen produced by its captive plants are being diverted for medical purposes for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Bhilai Steel Plant operates two liquid oxygen plants on its own, while a third plant is operated by Praxair at the plant site on a build-operate-operate (BOO) basis. The company said that the latter plant has already supplied 3383 oxygen cylinders between August 2020 and March 2021 for the treatment of Covid-19 patients at hospitals.

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