Therefore, all sugar mills should take the initiative and set up oxygen production plants,” the letter said “Factories have experience in refining ethanol and separating carbon dioxide in distillation projects.
Sugar mills in Maharashtra have decided to come forward to produce and supply oxygen at their plants in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases and severe shortage of oxygen being faced by hospitals in several states.
The mills have come forward to produce and supply oxygen in response to an appeal made by NCP president Sharad Pawar who urged all factories to come forward and make use of their facilities to produce and supply oxygen in a letter sent to all the factories by the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI).
“Oxygen demand has increased in the current corona conditions. Therefore, all sugar mills should take the initiative and set up oxygen production plants,” the letter said “Factories have experience in refining ethanol and separating carbon dioxide in distillation projects. The only thing to be done here is to set up a project to separate oxygen,” the letter suggested.
Pawar is also the chairman of VSI in Pune where an online meeting was held on Friday cutting across political lines to discuss the best ways to resolve the current crisis of oxygen. Cabinet minister Jayant Patil and health minister Rajesh Tope were also present in the meeting.Shivajirao Deshmukh, director general, VSI, said that four options were discussed at the meeting with stakeholders with regard to oxygen supply. “At least 50 to 60 factories have showed readiness to import 5 litre and 10 litre oxygen cylinders from Taiwan. This is a comparatively low-cost solution that could prove useful for patients at home who do not require ventilators,” he said.
Secondly, factories that produce ethanol and run cogeneration plants can produce oxygen at the ethanol facility. A pilot plant is coming up at Dharashiv factory in Osmanabad district and Baramati Agro. Factories showing a willingness to stop ethanol production and opt for oxygen production as a social cause can also do so,” Deshmukh said. Factories are also looking at skid mounted oxygen production units that will again be imported from Taiwan. These units cost Rs 45-50 lakh and an additional Rs 8-10 lakh for air freight cost,” he said.
Pandurang Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana is also looking at establishing Vacuum Pressure Swing Adsorption (VPSA) facilities. This requires 8-10 months for the entire set up. Deshmukh said factories in the state have shown a positive response and have shown a willingness to opt for one of the four alternatives suggested at the meeting.Once the facilities are established, the investment will not be wasted since the factories could continue to supply oxygen at the neighboring industrial development parks, he said.
BB Thombare, president, Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA), said that factories are willing to go in for oxygen production as a major social initiative. “The crushing season is almost coming to an end. As an immediate measure, mills have decided to lend the oxygen cylinders at their facilities for medical use to tide over the current shortage and also examine low-cost plants for oxygen production,” he said. Thombare said that some of the mills have resumed sanitiser production due to market demand.