The government expects to make 10,000 oxygenated beds available in a short period of time by making temporary hospitals near industrial units which produce oxygen of requisite purity to boost the supply of the life-saving gas to fight COVID-19. Following multiple meetings held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday to review the COVID-19 situation, a statement said the government has also explored the feasibility of conversion of existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen, and various such potential industries where the existing nitrogen plants may be spared for production of oxygen were identified.
After a meeting on the usage of gaseous oxygen, the government noted that many industries like steel plants, refineries with petrochemical units, industries using rich combustion processes and power plants among others have oxygen plants that produce gaseous oxygen. “This oxygen can be tapped for medical use,” it said. The strategy being used is to identify industrial units which produce gaseous oxygen of requisite purity, shortlist those which are closer to cities, dense areas and demand centres and establish temporary COVID care establishments with oxygenated beds near that source. A pilot for five such facilities had already been initiated, and there is good progress on this, the government said, adding that this is being accomplished through PSUs or private industries operating the plant and with the coordination of the central and state dispensations.
“It is expected that around 10,000 oxygenated beds can be made available in a short period of time by making temporary hospitals near such plants. State governments are being encouraged to set up more such facilities with oxygenated beds to deal with the pandemic,” it added. Modi also reviewed progress on the setting up of pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plants and was informed that around 1,500 PSA plants are in the process of being established through the contribution of PM Cares Fund, PSUs and others. He directed officials to ensure speedy completion of these plants, the government said. Exploring the feasibility of conversion of existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen, another meeting chaired by Modi discussed the process of converting the existing PSA nitrogen plants for the production of oxygen.
In the nitrogen plants, carbon molecular sieve (CMS) is used whereas zeolite molecular sieve (ZMS) is required for producing oxygen, the government noted, adding that by replacing CMS with ZMS and carrying out a few other changes such as oxygen analyzer, control panel system and flow valves among others, existing nitrogen plants can be modified to produce oxygen. “On deliberation with industries, so far 14 such industries have been identified where conversion of plants is under progress. Further 37 nitrogen plants have been also identified with the help of industry associations,” it said. A nitrogen plant modified for the production of oxygen can be either shifted to a nearby hospital or, in case it is not feasible to shift the plant, it can be used for on-site production of oxygen, which can betransported to the hospital through specialized vessels or cylinders, it asserted.
Several senior bureaucrats, including Principal Secretary to PM, Cabinet Secretary, Home Secretary, Road Transport & Highways Secretary and & other senior officials, participated in the meetings.