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Oxygen disaster: More than provide, lack of tankers and plant location key challenges

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THE OXYGEN disaster in the course of the second Covid surge has been precipitated by a scarcity of tankers and the daunting logistics of transportation from distant places — not by a dearth of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO), which is accessible in ample amount, prime officers and key business gamers instructed The Indian Express.
Official figures present that on April 24, numerous industries produced 9,103 metric tonnes (MT) of LMO in opposition to a beforehand present capability of seven,259 MT. On the identical day, the sale of LMO stood at 7,017 MT.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was knowledgeable throughout a evaluate assembly that manufacturing has elevated from 5,700 MT per day in August 2020 to eight,922 MT on April 25 this yr.
“The domestic production of LMO is expected to cross 9,250 MT per day by the end of April,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) stated.
Apart from specialised producers resembling Kolkata-based Linde India and Mumbai-based Inox Air, which produce liquid oxygen for medical and industrial use, the metal business and oil refineries contribute considerably with their captive vegetation.
“We do not have enough tankers to carry supplies. Most of the plants are located in eastern India, apart from a couple in the west. This means long distances and a lot of turnaround time. Add to this the problem of states holding up tankers on the way and you get an idea of the crisis,” a Linde government instructed The Indian Express.
“We have adequate availability of oxygen, but transportation remains a challenge,” stated Piyush Goyal, Additional Secretary with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Official sources stated that at the moment, nearly 50 per cent of provide is from metal corporations. The business has a manufacturing capability of over 60,000-70,000 tonnes of oxygen within the gaseous type to be used in built-in vegetation. There are 33 such vegetation within the nation, every with a capability to liquefy 5-10 per cent of manufacturing together with corresponding storage.

ExplainedHurdles on the way in whichMost of the oxygen vegetation are situated within the east, resulting in lengthy transportation hauls and a turnaround time of not less than 6-7 days for every tanker. Officials estimate that at any given level, there are solely 200 tankers in transit to fulfill a requirement of three,500-4,000 MT.

While Tata Steel is supplying over 600 MT of LMO every day, JSW is offering 1000 MTs. Similarly, RIL, Adani, ITC, and Jindal Steel and Power, amongst others, are diverting a good portion of liquid oxygen for medical functions, sources stated.
The business has additionally made accessible liquid oxygen from its storage tanks — about 16,000 MT as on April 21, in response to an MHA affidavit in Supreme Court.
The drawback lies some place else, officers stated. At current, India has 1,224 oxygen tankers with a cumulative capability of 16,732 MT of LMO. “This is grossly inadequate. The turnaround time for tankers at the moment is a minimum of 6-7 days. This means our daily availability of tankers is one-sixth of the total. If we only take into account supply from steel and refineries, you are talking about meeting a demand of 3,500-4,000 tonnes with just about 200 tankers,” a state nodal officer for oxygen distribution instructed The Indian Express.
Outlining the Government’s problem, the official stated cryogenic tankers value round Rs 50 lakh every. “Why would a company buy more tankers than it needs? Once this wave is over, that investment will turn into losses. So it’s the Government’s responsibility to arrange for tankers,” the official stated.
“The biggest bottleneck is the shortage of cryogenic containers. Tatas are importing 36 cryogenic vessels by this month-end,” stated T V Narendran, president-designate, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
Sources instructed The Indian Express that the Government can also be eyeing the manufacture of 100 tankers by the IOCL Cryogenics Plant in Nashik though deliveries will solely happen inside “4-6 months”. According to the Union Health Ministry, 20 cryogenic tankers have been imported.
Cryogenic tankers, which retailer medical oxygen at -180 levels C, have double-skin vacuum-insulated containers, together with an interior vessel manufactured from chrome steel. The area between the interior and outer vessels is full of insulant.
Munjal Mehta, director, Shell-n-Tube Pvt Ltd, which manufactures cryogenic tanks, stated: “In the pre-Covid time, a tanker had to refill medical oxygen stock at a hospital once in week but now that hospital requires supply every day.”

Two weeks in the past, the Centre allowed industrial oxygen to be diverted for medical use with the Railways beginning an Oxygen Express service to hold tankers. The IAF has additionally been pressed into service to airlift empty tankers from so far as Dubai, Bangkok and Singapore (see chart).
Yet, there are challenges. The Railways’ efforts have been stymied by the requirement that the tankers must be of a specific specification to cross via tunnels and beneath station canopies. Since the primary Oxygen Express left for Visakhapatnam from Mumbai on April 21, simply 26 tankers carrying round 450 MT have been transported until date — round a dozen tankers are at the moment in transit.
The Government is, in the meantime, setting up a number of different measures to sort out the disaster, together with growing the variety of tankers to 2,000 by changing nitrogen tankers to hold oxygen. According to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, there are 434 argon tankers and 765 nitrogen tankers within the nation. Sources stated about 50 per cent of those can be transformed.

Besides, 162 tankers are being imported on a rent/buy foundation with the IAF facilitating transport. The IAF can also be airlifting empty tankers from its Hindon base to Durgapur. The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) has already launched SOPs for conversion of 138 accessible LNG tankers for oxygen.
Other measures embody directing states to not enable using liquid oxygen in any business, barring pharmaceutical and defence and for ampoules and vials; ordering the set up of location monitoring units on automobiles carrying oxygen; and, mapping oxygen sources for high-burden states to make sure fast provide.