Kerala needs 98 tonnes oxygen a day, produces 204 tonnes

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi: Kerala has enough oxygen and it won’t face a shortage like other states, even if the COVID-19 case load increases, authorities said.

The State has been producing 204 tonnes of oxygen daily while the requirement is 98 tonnes a day.

Kerala has four firms producing oxygen, besides 11 air separation units (ASUs) located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur.

Besides distributing oxygen in Kerala, Inox Air Products, a private plant located at Kanjikode in Palakkad, has been catering to the hospitals in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also.

Kerala Metals and Minerals Limited (KMML) and Cochin Shipyard produce oxygen for industrial purposes, and the surplus has been diverted to hospitals. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited is also supplying oxygen, a byproduct, from its refinery in Kochi.

None of the plants in Kerala are operating in full capacity. Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, PESO, R Venugopal said an ASU with four-tonne capacity would be commissioned in Palakkad within a month. Venugopal is the nodal officer responsible for monitoring medical oxygen in the State and Lakshadweep.

The state also has 23 oxygen filling stations.

Current demand

According to statistics, Kerala has 1.05 lakh COVID-19 patients who require oxygen support. They need 51.45 tonnes, and non-COVID patients require another 47.16 tonnes, taking the total daily requirement of medical oxygen to 98.61 tonnes.

The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) has appointed nodal officers in all states to oversee the production, storage and distribution of oxygen. The Department of Health will inform the nodal officer of the oxygen requirement of each district. PESO ensures the smooth distribution of oxygen based on the demand.

Production of oxygen

Oxygen is produced based on the principles of Joule-Thomson effect. Nitrogen comprises two-third of atmospheric gases and oxygen forms the remaining. Plants separate these two gases.

The gas is repeatedly passed through cold boxes in liquid oxygen plants at high to low pressure. The repetition freezes the gas, and oxygen forms at -187 degree Celsius.

When the temperature dips to -187 degree Celsius, oxygen, now liquefied and separated from the gas, is stored in condensers in the cold box. It is then pumped into tanks. Nitrogen will still be in gaseous state, which could be used in storage plants. Decreasing the temperature further could liquefy it.

At filling plants, the liquid oxygen is converted to the gaseous form using heat exchangers or vaporizers. This is then filled in canisters and distributed to hospitals.

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Family members of COVID-19 patients wait outside an oxygen-filling center to refill their empty cylinders, as demand for the gas rises due to spike in coronovirus cases, at Mayapuri in New Delhi, Thursday, April 22, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Plants and production

Inox Air Products, Kanjikode – 149 tonnes

KMML, Chavara – 6 tonnes

BPCL Refinery, Kochi – 0.322 tonnes

Cochin Shipyard – 5.45 tonnes

ASU plants (11 numbers) – 44 tonnes  

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