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COVID surge: Ramp up oxygen cylinder production on war footing, says MS Unnikrishnan

Updated : April 19, 2021 12:24:00 IST

We need to produce oxygen (O2) cylinders and transportation network on a war footing, said industry expert and former Thermax MD and CEO, MS Unnikrishnan, on Monday.

As COVID cases spike and the demand for medical oxygen rises, the central government has decided to prohibit the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers from April 22 barring 9 select sectors. These include the likes of ampoules and vials, pharmaceuticals, petroleum refineries, steel plants, oxygen cylinder making companies and process engineering companies among others.

Speaking in an interview with CNBC-TV18, Unnikrishnan said, “The biggest challenge is that oxygen is stored in liquefied condition (in an industrial area) and not in the gaseous condition. So liquefied oxygen will be transported in the bullets and especially trucks and very large hospitals may have bullets available, but most of the small and medium-sized hospitals where there is a dire need of oxygen, they are using oxygen cylinders and there has been an absolute shortage of oxygen cylinders in the country the moment this has been implemented.”

“However, the decision is right but simultaneously we will have to on a war footing create oxygen cylinders and transportation capability, purification capability and more bullets to be created for,” he said.

“The challenge that we will be facing is that most of the larger capacities ensconced in industrial area are inside the refinery, inside the steel factory – they got oxygen making plant. They may not be of human consumption type so you need to have purification done, which is possible and not very complicated,” said Unnikrishnan.

According to him, most companies will have oxygen available for a fortnight to one month. “If it’s going to be for 14 days to a month, the industry won’t suffer. The MSME may not have sufficient storage available so there could be some breakages but the industry should be able to overcome, but there will be a challenge for two weeks to one month and unfortunately, that will be the most challenging time for India but the industry will be cooperative to the government even if they have to cut down the production by a few percentages,” he said.

For the entire interview, watch the video
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