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Kerala model: How India’s only oxygen surplus state is managing the crisis

Kerala has the distinction of being the only State with an oxygen surplus, so much so, that it has been sending supplies to Tamil Nadu, Goa and Karnataka as well. The State’s oxygen production is at 199 metric tonnes per day. Demand for Covid care in the State comes to 35 MTPD, while non-covid care requires around 45 MTPD.

April 23, 2021 / 10:58 AM IST

While patients in the National Capital Region, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are reeling due to an acute shortage of oxygen, people in Kerala are much better off. The State has the distinction of being the only one with an oxygen surplus, so much so, that it has been sending supplies to Tamil Nadu, Goa and Karnataka as well.

Here’s a look at how Kerala is managing the situation.

 Surplus production

Data available with the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) show that Kerala’s oxygen production is at 199 metric tonnes per day (MTPD). Demand for Covid care in the State comes to 35 MTPD, while non-covid care requires around 45 MTPD.

The State has a total production capacity of 204 MTPD. The major producers in the State are Inox with 149 MT, Kerala Minerals and Metals with 6 MTPD, Cochin Shipyard with 5.45 MTPD and Bharat Petroleum Corporation with 0.322 MTPD. In addition, 11 air separation units (ASU) also produce around 44 MTPD.

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“All filling plants are not running at 100 per cent capacity. If demand is there, we can go for 100 percent capacity. There are 11 ASU plants in Kerala for filling cylinders,” said R Venugopal, Deputy Chief Controller of explosives, PESO, and nodal officer for oxygen supply for Kerala and Lakshadweep. The State is also set to commission an ASU plant in Palakkad that can produce 4 MTPD.

 PESO’s role

PESO is assessing the availability of the life-saving gas in Kerala and in neighbouring States and looking at storage capacity and movement constraints. It also evaluates transport capacity, bulk tank availability, distances, road conditions and security. “We evaluate the capacity to vaporise liquid oxygen into gas, either with existing installations or as a component on smaller/portable tanks. We also ensure that the installer has sufficient medical devices to deliver oxygen therapy,” Venugopal said.

In addition, the Central government has given three Pressure Swing Adsorption systems (PSAs) to the Kerala government’s medical colleges at Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur. “The systems were installed but piping and electric panel works are under progress by the respective medical colleges. Once that is completed the systems will start generating oxygen.”

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A pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen plant serves as a large, central source of oxygen generation using PSA technology (similar to concentrators) that can be located onsite at medical facilities.

Rise in demand

Kerala is also expecting a rise in oxygen demand in the coming days. It expects that 105,000 patients may need around 51.45 MTPD of oxygen by April 25, while the requirement for non-Covid Patients may be around 47.16 MTPD.

These numbers are expected to rise further to 115,000 patients needing around 56.35 MTPD by April 30, while the non-covid requirement may be around 47.16 MTPD by then.

ALSO READ: In Charts: How oxygen is made, used in hospitals

Interestingly, after the first wave, Kerala had raised the number of ICU beds and also doubled the number of ventilators. At present, out of 9,735 ICU beds, only 999 are occupied. Out of 3,776 ventilators, only 277 are occupied — a major factor for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to confidently state that Kerala has no oxygen shortage issues at present.
Shine Jacob
first published: Apr 23, 2021 10:58 am

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