As India continues to grapple with a surge in Covid-19 cases and an escalating oxygen crisis, the country is turning to the international industrial gas community for urgent help in meeting its oxygen needs.

gasworld understands that the Indian High Commissions across the Middle East, Europe and Asia are all approaching gas companies and gas associations for help.

According to Saket Tiku – President of the All Indian Industrial gas Manufacturers Association (AIIGMA) – the demand for medical oxygen in India increased from the norm of 800 tonnes per day (tpd) to 3,000 tpd in the first pandemic spike, but in this second and still climbing wave that figures has doubled to 6,000 tpd.

Tiku has for the past nine months being co-opted onto a special committee set up by Prime Minister Modi. Conditions have worsened as we have seen on many TV channels and media reports, and gasworld now understands the Indian Government has put out a tender for 50,000 tonnes of medical liquid oxygen. That tender is open to the international community as well as those within India.

The Indian Government is quite simply asking for the international community to help with liquid oxygen (LOX) supplies, equipment supplies and even human resources to help counter the unprecedented demand for oxygen from the spiralling number of patients in hospitals.

John Raquet, Publisher and CEO of gasworld as well as an independent industrial gas consultant, stated following discussions with Tiku that, “Any companies operating within the industrial gas community that has any redundant ASUs that are dismantled and ready for shipping should reach out and offer these to the Indian High Commission.”

He also went onto say that “this also applied to unused or spare transport equipment such as trailers and ISO tanks that are fit for oxygen service or can be quickly converted, to do the same.”

“I have also recommended that the Indian Ministry of Defence approach similar Governmental departments in the US, UK, Europe and the Middle East and ask for help in airlifting any unused field ASUs that can be deployed quickly.”

gasworld understands that even the more unusual steps of using specially converted military transport aircraft that could fly liquid oxygen trailers within and into India is starting to take place.

“Due to safety requirements, these air lifters need to be specially adapted to avoid a build-up of oxygen concentration during the flight,” Raquet said. “So the world is responding but clearly India and other such countries like Brazil need more urgent help.”

Coronavirus with masked man

Escalating crisis

This marks the latest step in an escalating Covid and oxygen crisis in India. gasworld reported on Monday (19th) how several states across India were understood to be flagging oxygen shortages as Covid cases surged, with the government announcing that oxygen supply would be restricted to just nine industries from yesterday (22nd).

Industrial oxygen supply is now restricted to those entities involved in refilling cylinders, the pharma sector, steel plants, oil refineries, wastewater treatment, food and water treatment, nuclear energy facilities and continuous production sites that must keep processes running.

It comes after a weekend in which global confirmed deaths due to coronavirus passed three million according to Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization (WHO) had also warned that the world was ‘approaching the highest rate of infection’ so far.

This certainly appears to be the case in India, described as experiencing its second wave and having recorded more than 250,000 new cases on Saturday (17th) alone, cite various reports.

Read more: India – what do we know about its Covid crisis?

According to John Hopkins University, at the time of writing confirmed cases in India total more than 15 million, with almost 179,000 fatalities. The country has surpassed Brazil in terms of cases, though not fatalities, and is second only to the US (31 million) in its rising infection numbers.