How Kerala became an oxygen-surplus State in one year

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on May 01, 2021

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Concerted efforts to add capacity and maintain existing facilities

The Covid-19 second wave has disrupted the demand supply scenario of medical oxygen in several parts of the country. However, Kerala seems to be sitting pretty, thanks to the efforts of Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) in augmenting capacity and plugging leakages.

The achievement has been made possible through concerted efforts to set up oxygen plants and maintain the existing ASU (Air Separation Unit) plants and manufacturing plants both in public and private sectors over the past one year.

Allaying fears of an oxygen scarcity, RVenugopal, Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, PESO, Nodal officer (Medical Oxygen Monitoring), Kerala & Lakshadweep)said the State has a stock of 430 tonnes with a daily supply of 140 tonnes. Currently, there are 11 Air Separation Units (ASU) for filling cylinders from gaseous oxygen and there is capacity to spare. The total production capacity of Kerala is 204.75 tonnes a day. About 52 tonnes is needed for Covid treatment and for non-covid care 45 tonnes, he said.

PESO has approved the trial run for one more ASU at Palakkad that has a production capacity of 260 m3/hour gaseous oxygen and a liquid medical oxygen storage of 40 kilolitres. Besides, the agency has given approval for another ASU plant in Thiruvananthapuram to produce another 130 m3/hour gaseous oxygen and a liquid medical oxygen storage of 33 kl, which would start functioning shortly, he said.

‘Timely action’

It may be recalled that Kerala had to depend on the neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for liquid oxygen requirements. In 2019, PESO granted licence to set up a 149-tonne plant of Inox India to ensure regular supply of oxygen in the State.

“It was an online news report highlighting the shortage of medical oxygen in Italy in the Covid times last year that prompted me to augment the capacity of oxygen plants in Kerala”, Venugopal told BusinessLine. “I had convened a meeting with liquid oxygen manufacturers in March 2020 to step up production so as to meet any emergencies eventualities with the spread of virus. They were asked to provide daily reports on the production and storage status including that of private hospitals.

‘Capacity being added’

The public sector Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd which set up a plant in September 2020 is producing seven tonnes per day, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited-Kochi Refinery produces three tonnes in association with Air Products, while the Cochin Shipyard produces another 5.45 tonnes, he added.

Industry sources pointed out that that BPCL has offered to enhance its medical oxygen supply by converting its gaseous oxygen into medical cylinders. As it requires high pressure compressors, the petroleum marketing company is studying the feasibility of the project and once it is materialised, the supply of oxygen to the State would be further increased.

Meanwhile, sources who preferred anonymity told BusinessLine that the effort to build oxygen storage/capacity at the hospital-level is in various stages of completion in the state. They would need some more time before they can find the materials, manpower and resources to take the work to a logical conclusion.

Published on April 30, 2021

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