The government on Monday listed out steps to augment oxygen supply in the country as it sought to counter the narrative of lack of medical oxygen leading to health crisis and death of many COVID-19 patients. Key steps have been taken to increase the availability, streamline the distribution and strengthen the oxygen storage infrastructure in the country amid rising Covid-19 cases, the Commerce Ministry said in a statement.
"The steps undertaken focused on the entire oxygen supply chain. These include efforts for improving oxygen production, enhancing tanker availability to optimize logistics, improving oxygen storage at the last mile, and easing norms of procurement," the ministry said.
The national capital, like most parts of the country, is reeling under shortage of medical oxygen as COVID patients keep thronging the hospitals.
The courts last week had lashed out at both the Centre and the Delhi government while ordering adequate supply of oxygen to save lives of serious COVID-19 patients. An AAP MLA on Sunday had claimed that Delhi received just 499 metric tonnes of oxygen on May 8 against the average supply of 700 MT ordered by the Supreme Court.
The commerce ministry stated that oxygen production has increased from 5,700 MT per day in August last year to 9,446 MT per day in May this year.
The production capacity has also increased from 6,817 MT per day to 7,314 MT per day, and capacity utilization has gone up from 84 per cent to 129 per cent during this period, the ministry noted.
It said that steel companies from both the public and private sectors have stepped up efforts to meet the nation's requirement of medical oxygen and on May 4, the total liquid medical oxygen (LMO) production by the steel plants was 3,680.3 MT.
"The total LMO supply per day was up from an average 1,500-1,700 MT in mid-April to 3,131.84 MT on April 25, and further to 4,076.65 MT on May 4," it said.
It informed that LMO sale has also increased from about 1,300 MT/day in March 1 to 8,920 MT/day on May 6.
During the first wave of COVID-19, the maximum sale of 3,095 MT/day of LMO was seen on September 29, 2020. The sale grew more than five-fold from 1,559 MT/day on March 31 this year to over 8,000 MT mark by May 3, 2021.
On the oxygen allocation process, it said that it has continuously evolved to streamline the distribution in the country. It added that the allocation to states/UTs is dynamic in nature, based on requirements as per Health Ministry norms, and consultation with states/UTs, manufacturers and other stakeholders.
"There is a mismatch between producing and consuming states, and equity among states to be maintained. Moreover, one-third of the production is concentrated in East India, while 60% of demand for oxygen is in North and South India, resulting in transportation challenges," it said. It added that mapping of source and destination of oxygen has been completed to optimize transportation plans in consultation with states/UTs, manufacturers and other stakeholders.
Regarding oxygen production capacity enhancement plans, the ministry said that additional 70 MT/day production is expected in Karnataka.
"1,594 PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption) plants are being established to improve oxygen supply near demand clusters...74 of the 162 PSA plants have been installed and the rest will be installed by June 2021. 1,051 additional PSA plants sanctioned under the PM Cares Fund in March and April 2021 will be commissioned in the next three months in phases," it added.
On imports, it said 50,000 MT of liquid oxygen is being imported from overseas, with orders and delivery schedule for 5,800 MT has been finalized; three quotations have been received for 3,500 MT, which was approved on April 21 with delivery over three months.
In addition, 2,285 MT of LMO is being imported from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and France.
Further procurement of one lakh oxygen concentrators has been sanctioned under PM Cares Fund on April 27 and the offer has been received for 2,500 units.
"There has been a good response to the tender floated by ONGC. Offers for 50,000 concentrators have been received from domestic manufacturers. Awards for 9,800 units have been finalized with a delivery schedule of 4,800 units on May 15 and 5,000 units on May 27.
"In addition, 55 bidders have expressed interest to supply 70,000 – 75,000 units of concentrators. Orders are being finalized and will be placed based on promised delivery schedule," it added.
The ministry said that in March 2020, the capacity of tankers was 12,480 MT and their number was 1,040. Now, the capacity of tankers has gone up to 23,056 MT and their number has increased to 1,681, which includes 408 converted tankers and 101 imported tankers.
"248 oxygen tankers are being imported, with 101 tankers imported so far and another 58 tankers to be imported in next 10 days; In addition, 100 tankers are being manufactured domestically," it said.
Till the evening of May 9, 293 MT has been offloaded in Maharashtra by railways; 1,230 MT in Uttar Pradesh; 271 MT in Madhya Pradesh; 555 MT in Haryana; 123 MT in Telangana; 40 MT in Rajasthan; and 1,679 MT in Delhi.
A web and app-based Oxygen Digital Tracking System (ODTS) has been launched to enable real time tracking of oxygen movement in the country.
About 2,500 additional drivers are being trained to drive oxygen tankers by the National Skill Development Corporation and Logistics Sector Skill Council.
It added that the number of cryogenic tanks for storing oxygen at hospitals has increased to 901 from 609 since March 2020 and availability of medical oxygen cylinders has increased from 4.35 lakh in March 2020 to 11.19 lakh in May 21.
"Additional, 3.35 lakh cylinders are being procured in line with estimated increase in demand. Orders have been placed for additional 1,27,000 cylinders on April 21. DRDO is procuring 10,00,000 NRM valves under PM Cares Fund - this device will reduce wastage of oxygen by shutting out the supply during exhalation," it said.