Earlier this week, the central government decided to import 50,000 metric tonnes (MT) of Medical Oxygen to meet the rising demand in the hospitals. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been asked to identify the countries from where medical oxygen
can be imported. The move comes on the heels of the sweeping second wave of Covid-19
that has created an immense demand for medical oxygen. With the vaccination status in the country still standing at a mere 0.02 per cent as of today, considering the fact that 3.06 crore people have received the first dose of vaccine, the need to ramp up oxygen production has become imperative.
“In view of increasing demand for medical oxygen, the Government has decided to float a tender for import of 50,000 MT of medical oxygen. MOHFW has been directed to finalize the tender for the same and also explore possible sources for import identified by the missions of MEA,” the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) said in a statement.
Current Production Capability
According to the government officials, approximate projections of medical oxygen demand has been shared with states for the end of April and 12 most affected states have been allocated close to 4,880 MT, 5,619 MT and 6,593 MT of medical oxygen. As the country scrambles to fulfill the demand for medical oxygen through both imports and local production, let us have a look at the current medical oxygen and other industrial gas production capability of India.
Both in manufacturing as well as healthcare, gases find their usage in various applications which have been driving the growth of industrial and medical gases industry. Industrial gases are used in several manufacturing segments for which oxygen, nitrogen and argon are being produced in large quantities. Oxygen is primarily used in steel industry for cutting and welding as well as for treating polluted water and hazardous wastes and also for the gasification process of coal. Acetylene, propane, and mixture of fuel gases are used in shipyards and the automotive industry. Liquid nitrogen on the other hand is used in recycling plastics, packaging, and scrap tyres. Then there is chemical industry which uses almost all industrial gases either as a raw material or for the purpose of inerting.
Evident Shift in Demand
When it comes to production of industrial gases, currently, there are more than 300 small and medium size plants and over 25 large plants across the country. Gases produced at these facilities are supplied to nearby factories through pipelines, cryogenic transport tanks or cylinders.