India’s oxygen crisis to ease by mid-May, output to jump 25%
A top industry executive told Reuters that India’s severe medical oxygen supply crisis is expected to ease by mid-May, with output increasing by 25% and transportation infrastructure ready to handle a surge in demand caused by a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases.
This month, dozens of hospitals in cities like New Delhi and Mumbai have run out of gas, sending relatives of patients scrambling for oxygen cylinders, sometimes in vain.
According to Moloy Banerjee of Linde Plc (LIN.N), the country’s largest producer, medical oxygen consumption in India has increased more than eightfold from normal levels to around 7,200 tonnes per day this month.
“This is what is causing the crisis because no one was prepared for it, especially the steep curve up,” Banerjee, the company’s South Asia gas business head, told Reuters on Thursday.
Linde and other suppliers are ramping up production to more than 9,000 tonnes per day by the middle of next month, he said, referring to the company’s two affiliates in the country, Linde India (LIND.NS) and Praxair India.
A logistics crisis impeding the rapid movement of oxygen from surplus areas in eastern India to hard-hit northern and western areas will be resolved in the coming weeks, Banerjee said, as more distribution assets are deployed.
“My expectation is that by the middle of May, we will undoubtedly have the transportation infrastructure in place to service this demand across the country,” he said.
Banerjee stated that India was importing approximately 100 cryogenic containers to transport large amounts of liquid medical oxygen, with Linde providing 60 of those. Some are being flown in by aircraft from the Indian Air Force.
Many of these containers will be loaded onto dedicated trains that will travel across the country, carrying between 80 and 160 tonnes of liquid oxygen and delivering it to multiple cities.
In addition, the company intends to double the number of oxygen cylinders in its distribution network to at least 10,000, which would improve supply to rural areas with poor infrastructure.
“We’re trying to build a hub-and-spoke system so that we can make a lot of liquid oxygen available in the local area, where local dealers can pick it up,” Banerjee explained.
On Thursday, India’s total COVID-19 cases surpassed 18 million, setting a new world record.