Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reviewed the progress of conversion of existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen — a feasibility explored by the Centre considering the requirement of medical oxygen amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Centre has identified more than two dozen nitrogen generation plants for production of medical oxygen.
“In order to ramp up oxygen supplies, the government is working on converting nitrogen plants into oxygen plants. Potential industries where current nitrogen plants could be spared, are being identified and converted,” the Prime Minister tweeted after the review meeting.
The process of converting the existing Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) nitrogen plants for production of oxygen was discussed in the meeting, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
In the nitrogen plants Carbon Molecular Sieve (CMS) is used whereas Zeolite Molecular Sieve (ZMS) is required for producing oxygen. Therefore, by replacing CMS with ZMS and carrying out a few other changes such as oxygen analyzer, control panel system and flow valves, existing nitrogen plants can be modified to produce oxygen.
“On deliberation with the industries, so far 14 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,” said the statement.
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 be be transported to hospital through specialized vessels or cylinders.
Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary, Home Secretary, Secretary Road Transport and Highways and other senior officials participated in the meeting.
Oxygen produced in on-site plants has to be compressed and filled in cylinders or special vessels using high pressure compressor for transporting to hospitals.
Facilitation is being provided to these industries for completion of work at the earliest.
The Centre had earlier asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which has a comprehensive data base of industrial units, to identify the industries having spare nitrogen plants and explore the feasibility of converting existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen.
The CPCB with the help of the State Pollution Control Boards has identified such potential industries, wherein existing nitrogen generation plants may be spared for production of oxygen.
In this regard, consultations have been held with potential industrial units and experts.
The Centre’s step comes as India has been hit by a devastating wave of Covid infections — the daily new cases crossed the four-lakh mark on Saturday and 3,92,488 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday morning. The surge in cases has left hospitals overwhelmed, doctors traumatised, and resources like beds, medicines and oxygen in perilously short supply.
The scale of the crisis has prompted the global community to step in with oxygen concentrators, tankers and other equipment being flown in by the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, the European Union and other countries.