Oxygen plants to get 24×7 power

The Union power ministry has stepped up efforts to ensure continuous supply of electricity to medical oxygen plants across the country as India battles a deadly second wave of covid-19, said two government officials aware of the development.

Some of these measures include shifting underground a critical portion of a power supply cable to a medical oxygen plant in Dehradun to prevent bird hits from tripping the line and recalibrating the electricity link to another plant in Uttar Pradesh, the officials said, seeking anonymity.

With India continuing to grapple with an acute shortage of oxygen, the Union power ministry, along with state electricity distribution companies (discoms), has completed an audit of electricity supply to all medical oxygen-producing plants in the country to ensure uninterrupted operations.

Also, state-run Rural Electrification Corp. (REC) has been appointed as the nodal agency for monitoring power supply to 73 major oxygen generation plants in India, said two government officials aware of the development.

Ensuring constant power supply to medical oxygen plants is critical as even a brief power cut at such facilities can cause a drop in pressure, setting back the entire production process by about 2-3 hours.

This comes against the backdrop of an oxygen crisis driven by a surge in coronavirus infections that has also led to a shortage of hospital beds and medicines. The situation is alarming, with several reported deaths of critically ill covid-19 patients due to low oxygen.

“Given the impending crisis, the government started the process of identifying why full medical oxygen supply was not happening. One of the reasons was power supply getting interrupted,” said R. Lakshmanan, executive director at REC.

“After detailed study and analysis, it was found that there were technical and non-technical reasons for it. To ensure round-the-clock electricity availability, we are monitoring 73 major medical oxygen plants, wherein a nodal officer each from the plant and the electricity distribution company (discom) have been appointed,” said Lakshmanan, an IAS officer who previously headed South Bihar Power Distribution Co. Ltd.

A case in point being industrial gases firm Linde India’s Selaqui plant near Dehradun that supplies oxygen to Delhi. With the power supply to the plant tripping three times in 10 days, it was found that there was a dump yard en route to the 14km power-supply link that was triggering the outage, as birds were hitting the line during their flight. To resolve the issue, the entire 4-km-long overhead cable stretch, wherein this tripping was happening, is being moved underground by the Uttarakhand discom.

“All reasons including the ones beyond the discoms’ responsibility for the faults such as weather-related, accidents, etc., are analysed along with the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and Power System Operation Corp. Ltd (Posoco), with secretary, power, taking a daily meeting on the same. Routine and preventive audits are being done to take corrective actions, along with state discoms,” Lakshmanan added.

India’s domestic liquid medical oxygen production has been ramped up to around 9,400 metric tonnes per day.

Queries emailed to the power ministry spokesperson on Friday evening remained unanswered till press time.

REC is the nodal agency that monitors power supply to 73 oxygen generation plants.

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REC is the nodal agency that monitors power supply to 73 oxygen generation plants.

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