NEW DELHI: The Centre is in talks with industry, especially steel plants and oil refineries, to step up supply of oxygen for meeting the requirements of Covid-19 patients.
While the government has been tapping into surplus oxygen available with these sectors, over the last two-three days efforts have been initiated to get more supplies without affecting production.
As part of the exercise, industry bodies are in talks with oxygen producers, which are typically smaller units, to see how capacity can be added quickly to meet the additional requirement, two people familiar with the development told TOI.
According to industry estimates, around 7,200 million metric tonnes of oxygen is available in the country, with half used for medical purposes and the other for industrial use.
Industry sources said that preliminary estimates suggested that 20-25% of the supply available with steel units and refineries could be diverted for medical use.
“We do not know the exact quantity that can be diverted but steel companies have responded positively to the government’s request and increasing supply to some extent should not be a problem,” an industry executive said, adding that some companies have already committed to boost supplies.
One of the challenges is to move oxygen from one part of the country to another. For instance, some of the steel units in Odisha have committed to additional supplies, but the requirement may be in Maharashtra, creating logistical issues as transporting it, and that too quickly, may not be easy. Industry bodies are mapping units where there is surplus that can be diverted.
“We have been accessing surplus capacity since July-August, and we are trying to see if we can get some more,” said a government source. The move follows the Centre’s discussions with the states where the requirement for various products and services was assessed following a spurt in cases across the country.
Several states such as Maharashtra have already sent an SOS to the Centre, seeking more supplies to ensure that patients with low saturation levels have access to oxygen.