Meanwhile, in Mumbai, Shanawaz Shaikh has began dreading calls that come on the lifeless of evening. Often, the callers are senior residents who’ve been examined optimistic for Covid-19, and haven’t been in a position to get a hospital mattress. Their voices are feeble, however hurried with frequent pauses to catch a breath, as they plead for an oxygen cylinder.
Shaikh, fondly known as the “oxygen man”, has despatched cylinders to almost 600 Covid patients in Mumbai since March this 12 months. The 31-year-old offered his swanky Ford Endeavour SUV in June final 12 months to start out this “free service” for Covid sufferers.
“There’s a lot oxygen scarcity now. We barely get 60-70 cylinders per day. The demand could be very excessive — we get 800 to 1,000 calls daily — however we’re compelled to show down quite a lot of requests. Even on the peak of the primary Covid wave final 12 months, we have been getting 200-300 cylinders each day. Now that’s not the case.
The state of affairs appears grim,” says Shaikh. As Covid cases spiral in India, crossing 3 lakh each day, sufferers, notably in Delhi, UP, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, are determined for and denied of primary hospital care and oxygen help. Hospitals are hollering for treasured oxygen in the largest well being disaster in a century. The demand for medical oxygen in India has gone up from 900 metric tonnes per day (MTPD) in pre-Covid months to five,500-5,800 MTPD now.
But gases producers are usually not seeing this as an oxygen scarcity disaster — not but. For, the trade, price over $2 billion in India, is producing almost 7,800MTPD of oxygen. Now, gases producers have minimize the provision of oxygen to manufacturing models — metal crops, auto makers, petroleum corporations, miners, glass producers and others — and diverted their whole manufacturing for medical use. “We will be able to cover the demand well, if Covid cases hold the same growth trajectory — and then fall. But if daily cases continue to rise, we could be in trouble after 15-20 days,” says Rajeev Gupta, MD of Vinayak Air Products, which has fuel crops in MP, Uttarakhand and Delhi.
The greatest downside with gases — corresponding to oxygen — is transportation. Most fuel crops are positioned close to industrial zones, removed from cities, cities and villages the place individuals reside. This is as a result of the purchasers of fuel producers are largely industries. Out of 50-odd gases that these producers make, oxygen accounts for simply 10-15% of their product portfolio share. That aside, solely oxygen, nitrogen and argon are recovered from the environment; the remainder are all fomented utilizing numerous chemical processes. So giant corporations focus extra on making specialty gases the place margins are excessive. “We have by no means skilled demand for oxygen like this until now.
Also, oxygen manufacturing is a low-margin enterprise and storage is an issue. You want quite a lot of cylinders or giant cryogenic vessels to retailer oxygen. Nobody manufactures oxygen in bulk as a result of there’s no sustained demand,” says RS Sachdeva, MD of Hitech Industries, which has crops in Punjab. “The shortage is now felt in places far from industrial zones or steel plants. The only way to stabilise demand is to transport oxygen in bulk to places where there is shortage. For that, you need to have ample supply of cryogenic tankers and cylinders,” he provides.
CYLINDERS & CRYO VESSELS
Manufacturers, bottlers and re-fillers account for a big a part of the gases trade. Bottlers make cylinders and cryogenic vessels for producers and re-fillers. In the case of oxygen, bottlers promote empty cylinders and cryo vessels to re-fillers — who supply liquid oxygen from producers. India makes over 15 lakh cylinders yearly; of this, solely 50,000-60,000 models are made for storing or ferrying oxygen. The relaxation is used for storage of specialty gases.
“Bottlers are not prepared to deal with a situation like this. Many cylinder manufacturers are in the CNG kit business; they moved out of oxygen cylinder manufacturing several years ago,” says Puneet Khurana, MD, Everest Kanto Cylinder. “Capacity expansion takes time. It may take two-three months to even ramp up production. Some of us have stopped making cylinders of other gases now; we are only doing oxygen cylinders. We are doing the best we can,” he provides.
According to gases producers, there’s a scarcity of cryogenic vessels and tankers as nicely. This might hamper the majority transportation of liquid oxygen from distant fuel crops. Liquid oxygen, in bulk, can solely be transported in a cryogenic vessel, which can be known as a vacuum-insulated stress vessel. “This is a very specialised product and is not much in demand. We could not foresee a Covid-induced demand surge for cryo vessels,” says Munjal Mehta, director, Shell-n-Tube, a cryo vessel producer. “Cryo vessels are made with a lot of focus on safety. It may take several days to manufacture a simple cryogenic tanker vessel,” he provides.
Last 12 months, bottlers had manufactured over 4 lakh oxygen cylinders to satisfy Covid demand. Numerous these have been later used to replenish different gases when Covid circumstances dipped by a big measure post-September. Gas producers additionally allege hoarding of oxygen cylinders by re-fillers and prospects in a number of elements of the nation. Re-fillers are additionally charging charges which might be 5 occasions extra to replenish empty cylinders in the second Covid wave.
Now, the problem is not only of rising circumstances. “The cases we get now are mostly with high viral load —and more virulent. There’s widespread lung inflammation and instances of blood clotting,” says Dr Nitin Kumar Sinha, marketing consultant doctor, Wockhardt Hospital and We Care Wellness Clinic, Mumbai. “Oxygen support is very critical for such patients. Nearly 70% of those admitted in hospitals require oxygen as part of the treatment procedure. They need to be under oxygen therapy for nearly five days to recover steadily.”
Moderate Covid sufferers might be handled at dwelling with oxygen help, however the provide of oxygen has to be steady — for 4 to 6 days. A big oxygen cylinder — set in low stress — can solely final for six to eight hours. If the stress is about at larger ranges, the tank empties in three to 4 hours. “Oxygen therapy is best done at hospitals. Keeping cylinders at home triggers a community-level shortage,” says Dr Sinha. But hospitals are operating out of beds and O2.
Large fuel producers like Linde and
Air have been in a position to meet contracted and extra demand for oxygen up to now. Mid-sized gamers like Phoenix Gases have managed to optimise their provide chains to make sure oxygen availability inside particular territorial boundaries. “We are not delivering oxygen in bulk now; we are splitting large orders into smaller units and then delivering them three times a day. By doing so, we are able to cover more hospitals and also ensure round the clock oxygen availability,” says Salim Rakhangi, MD of Phoenix Gases.
Smaller gamers like Premier Gases, which makes about 5MTPD of oxygen per day, are specializing in hyperlocal markets now. “Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka faced a similar situation last August but the demand for oxygen stabilised in 15-20 days. A pan-India shortage may take longer, but with additional supply coming in, things should be better in a month’s time,” says R Srikrishnan, director, Premier Gases. Gases producers are hoping for each day Covid circumstances to come back down in the subsequent 15 days.
If that doesn’t occur, manufacturing corporations shall be impacted. “If oxygen diversion (from industries) continues, companies will have to lower their production. Some plants may even shut,” says Sachdeva of Hitech. Meanwhile, hospitals and sufferers are ready for choke factors in the distribution system to ease up — to take a deep breath. Until then, it’s a wrestle — for air, for life.
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