Covid-19 versus oxygen supply – the status on supply and demand


In the past five days we have seen headlines that oxygen is in short supply across Europe and the US. Unlike the carbon dioxide shortage two years ago, this would, if true, have significantly more consequences and would be a matter of literally life or death!

There is no doubt that a few hospitals have experienced low levels of oxygen or a lack of cylinders but it would be wrong to assume there will be national shortages of oxygen. It is important to understand both the current supply situation and the measures the gas companies are taking in order to supply the significant increase in demand due to Covid-19.

Firstly, oxygen is available in huge quantities as it makes up 21% of the air we breathe (in comparison CO2 is 0.04% and is produced as a by-product of industrial processes). The air separation plants that separate the oxygen from the air for industrial and medical purposes exist in most countries around the world and in the industrialised countries; the air separation units are widely dispersed across the country and the production capacity is significant.

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