On the same day gasworld reported that India was turning to the international industrial gas community for urgent help to meet its oxygen needs, gasworld TV heard that Chart Industries is contacting its rental and leasing partners of ISO containers to help and support the delivery of oxygen from overseas into the country.

Such news was delivered by Michael Blondin, Vice-President of Sales, EMEA & India at Chart Industries, when he today (23rd April) spoke on gasworld’s latest webinar Covid-19 & Medical Gases: Lessons Learned One Year On, sponsored by Anova.

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Oxygen and Covid-19 remained the key top of the webinar, with Blondin explaining the role Chart has, and continues to play, during these devastating times. With focus on the company’s ongoing efforts in India, Blondin, said, “We’ve [Chart] been contacted also to ask our customers and our partners that have unused storage tanks and ISO containers to help contribute to these efforts in India.”

“So, we’re actually out there right now contacting our rental and leasing partners of ISO containers to see if we can actually help and support to bring in oxygen from overseas into India.”

“I would also like to share something else that has happened today, relating to the oxygen shortage in India,” he continued. “In India, the authorities are actually bringing in full containers of liquid oxygen by air – and this is almost probably never seen anywhere in the world. “

Chart has played a key role throughout the course of the pandemic, and even unveiled during the webinar that it had previously received a single customer order, from a state-run medical oxygen company, for 100 cryogenic storage tanks for medical oxygen.

“I’ve been in this business for 25 years, and I’ve never seen a single one of the order for 100 storage tanks,” Blondin said.

“To meet the significant increase in Covid-19 related product demand in each of the regions where we operate, we needed to really increase production and short lead times. To do this our production teams worked tirelessly as we increase production by adding shifts where necessary and dedicating more resources to our production sites.”

“Our sourcing teams at the same time at these sites actually had to keep up with demand to make sure that the supply chain was uninterrupted and that those came in on time so we could execute and deliver on time. “

With reference to the company’s lease offering, Blondin continued, “Along with the surges in the pandemic also came surges in demand for our leased distribution equipment. So at the same time that we had all these demands on storage, we added significant numbers of new oxygen trailers to our existing fleet of rental trailers.” 

“We also worked with many of our partners to refurbish and convert other trailers that were used, inert gases like argon and nitrogen for oxygen service to help meet the high oxygen demand.”

Leaving the audience with a concluding thought, Blondin, said, “In terms of lessons learned from the pandemic, besides the fact that we now know that we can carry our business remotely thanks to tools like Teams and Zoom, is the need to be flexible, agile and very adaptive, and our teams have really done quite a good job at this.”

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Oxygen supply in Europe

Also speaking on today’s (23rd April) webinar was Stephen B Harrison, Managing Director of sbh4 consulting, who, with reference to Covid-19 and oxygen supply, told the audience that, “the problem is not going away and the amount of oxygen that we’re consuming and using is not shrinking.”

Whilst India is unfortunately the area of focus right now, due to its oxygen struggles, Harrison focused his discussions on Europe and how the continent has been dealing with the pandemic, just over one year on.

“The fortunate thing here in Europe is that we overcame the shock of the challenge last year,” he told the audience. “That was really when we had to put all of the infrastructure into place to increase the amount of oxygen that we can supply to hospitals. And I think it reminded us that the industrial gas sector is a gas distribution business as well as the gas production business.”

“Furthermore, it also reminded us that the molecules and what we do is only one link in the chain, which is also absolutely essential. From molecule production through to liquid storage cylinders, through to the patient, we have to look at all of those links in the chain and any one of those could be a bottleneck. Maybe we can’t make enough molecules, maybe we don’t have enough storage tanks to put the molecules into, or maybe the gas pipelines inside the hospitals themselves need to be of a high capacity.”

“Working through all of those challenges and fixing them is really what we were doing in the first six months of last year. The oxygen availability, to be honest, is the least of those problems here, and we need to reflect that.”

“Europe is an extremely industrialised part of the world and the amount of oxygen that’s produced for use on refineries or steel making or other heavy industrial applications is tremendously large, and the amount of oxygen that is routed into medical applications in comparison to that is quite small.”

“So even if the oxygen demand for hospitals rises by a lot, as it has done, only eating into that overall oxygen availability here in Europe. For other parts of the world that are not quite so industrialised, a doubling in the oxygen demand in some countries means literally a doubling of the national oxygen demand. So in Europe for many, many reasons, we’ve been a very good place, much better placed than a lot of other parts of the world.”

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Advanced monitoring solutions

Kevin Lynch, Senior Vice-President of Industrial Gases at Anova, gasworld’s webinar sponsor, was last to speak about the Covid-19 crisis and the lessons learned one year on – and advanced monitoring solutions were the focus.

Speaking on how Anova has helped advance options during the pandemic, Lynch explained, “What we [Anova] were able to do for some of our customers and partners during the Covid era was provide them with advanced monitoring systems that we provide to monitor not just what’s happening inside an oxygen tank, but what’s the loading on the vaporizer and even what is the flow that the hospital itself can take into its own piping network to get the oxygen to the different wards where it needs to go.” 

“With that, our customers were able to use real time information related to tank levels and oxygen flow rates to manage the hospital loading in partnership with the hospital staff and, in some cases in partnership with the medical authorities and the local or the county where they work.”

Explaining how such technology can advance operations, Lynch explained that it provides hospitals and other facilities the heads-up if they’re going to run out of oxygen, or for any other reason. “I think has been remarkable and has really committed to saving lives,” he enthused. 

“It’s almost hard to believe, but in the early days, there were quite a few hospitals did not have remote monitors on their on their medical oxygen tanks. With that, it that caused a spike in demand in different localities at different times.”

“There were also quite a few and have an ongoing there have been temporary hospital solutions, pop up hospital supplemental oxygen systems, and in most cases, if not all those, those were swept with remote monitoring and telemetry. I think that also drove some demand, and it’s ongoing.”

“This is the time really for the industrial gases business to really show its expertise and be a partner in this health care system and in the infrastructure related to the health care system. This industry is where the experts reside.”

To catch the full webinar on demand, log onto gasworldtv.com