COVID-19 surge: CII sets up task force on oxygen supply chains

It will work with the Central and State governments to augment supply amid severe shortage of medical oxygen as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on Tuesday said it had formed a task force on ‘oxygen supply chain’ to work with the Central and State governments to augment supply amid severe shortage of medical oxygen as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

The task force would work towards domestic capacity enhancement and imports; logistical issues between States, including transportation, non-availability of cylinders and policy-level interventions, the industry body said in a statement.

Also read: Oxygen, medical supplies likely from 15 countries

“With unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases and acute shortage of medical oxygen pushing the hospitals in the country to the edge, India Inc has come forward to lend a helping hand to strengthen the fight against the pandemic,” it added.

Companies, including industrial majors such as Tata Group, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), JSW Group, Adani, ITC, and Jindal Steel and Power, are helping hospitals by supplying medical oxygen, cryogenic vessels, portable concentrators and generators.

Seshagiri Rao M.V.S., Chairman, CII Task Force on Oxygen Supply Chain and Joint Managing Director and Group CFO, JSW Steel Ltd., said, “Efforts are on to further increase oxygen supplies from steel plants across the country. The government of India has already come up with a tender for importing 50,000 MT of liquid oxygen.”

He added that the task force had made some critical propositions to government to use direct vessels to import liquid oxygen, removing logistical bottlenecks, reduce the transit time, fast unloading of containers, ensuring speedy clearances and transport to the destinations through green corridors, augmenting capacity to produce additional oxygen using supercritical process, among others. “The taskforce has also suggested that govt. could explore G2G mechanisms for getting support in the current health emergency with friendly countries,” Mr. Rao said.

Shortage of cryogenic containers

“There is a dire need to increase the availability of oxygen and address the logistical issues in transporting oxygen across the country…The biggest bottleneck is the shortage of cryogenic containers. Tatas are importing 36 cryogenic vessels by this month end. Tata Steel is also supplying over 600 MT medical oxygen from its plants to hospitals,” T.V. Narendran, president-designate, CII, said. He is also the CEO and MD at Tata Steel.

The industry body added that JSW Steel was also currently supplying 1,000 tonnes per day and plans to ramp up further. The total supply from all its plants across the country viz. Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in April 2021 was expected to be over 20,000 tonnes of liquid oxygen.

RIL is also supplying liquid medical oxygen of over 700 MT per day to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Daman, Diu & Nagar Haveli. In addition, ITC is airlifting 24 cryogenic ISO containers, with 20 tonnes capacity each. It is also exploring the imports of a large number of oxygen concentrators as well as generators for distribution. ITC’s Paperboards unit in Bhadrachalam has already commenced supply of oxygen to identified government hospitals in Telangana.

Adani Group is importing four ISO cryogenic tanks with 80 MT liquid oxygen from Saudi Arabia. ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India is supplying 220 MT of liquid oxygen per day to Gujarat. Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. is supplying 80 to 100 MT per day to various States and can enhance the capacity to 150 MT per day provided the lifting is increased, according to the CII.

The Commercial Vehicle manufacturers under the aegis of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) are sensitising and alerting the eco-system to ensure fastest turn-around time for vehicles transporting oxygen.

“Technologies like track and trace and/or connected vehicles, are being leveraged in this regard. All support and assistance required for keeping these vehicles on road and running, is also being made available,” it said.

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