Sources within the industry have said that the steel production in the country will not be affected even though industrial use oxygen is being diverted to hospitals for saving lives as a priority. The statement holds relevance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic raging in the country and with various integrated steel plants contributing to the liquid medical oxygen in the country.
At a recent meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and high-level officials it was said that the oxygen supply in the country was steadily increasing. It was found that the availability of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) has seen an increase of 3,300 tonnes per day. This is mainly with the help of the public steel plants, industries, oxygen manufacturers and through restrictions on the supply of oxygen for non-essential industries.
The Government of India has ensured distribution of LMO from every integrated steel plant to the various states suffering from the shortage of liquid medical oxygen.
A source within the industry commenting on the shortage of LMO said that the shortage is because of logistical reasons and the demand supply difference is being met by the suppliers of medical oxygen who have increased the production.
According to a technical expert the diversion of the LMO is not forcing the steel plants to stop the production. This is because over 30% of the oxygen produced is stored in the liquid form, which makes it easy for transportation and so it can be distributed as medical oxygen. This volume of oxygen anyway would have been stored so giving it away in times of a need would not really affect the steel production. The effect will be the least and temporary and give medical use oxygen producers time so that they can increase the production to the required levels.
It is being estimated the present crisis of LMO improve May onwards.
Steel Plants offer a helping hand
Many steel giants in the country have come forward to lend a helping hand in this hour of national emergency for LMO. Tata Steel has been supplying over 300 tonnes of LMO daily to various states. Some of the states where LMO is being supplied include Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal, a spokesperson of Tata Steel has said.
Many others like JSPL, SAIL, the Vedanta Group and RINL are doing their best in times of this national urgency.
How are oxygen and steel connected?
Liquid Medical Oxygen or LMO as it is popularly referred to is high purity oxygen, whereas industrial oxygen is used for combustion purposes, oxidation and for other chemical reactions in industrial plants.
So, before giving out this industrial oxygen for medical needs, companies need to complete the purification process at the oxygen plants within their facilities.
Use of oxygen in industries
The steel industry uses oxygen for various purposes. This includes mainly two steelmaking processes such as basic oxygen furnace and electric arc furnace and the secondary process of steel making.
Oxygen is also used for technical purposes. These include processes like oxy lancing and scarfing of steel and gas. Oxygen is also used for the enrichment of blast air in the blast furnace for the iron making process.
Over a year ago, the Indian government for the first time had permitted industrial oxygen manufacturers to produce and sell the gas for medical purposes.
The steel plants contribution towards India’s total LMO consumption is considered significant. The central government recently stated that the steel industry has supplied 1.43 lakh tons of oxygen towards combating COVID.
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