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India's government asks steelmakers to boost oxygen output in fight against COVID-19

Singapore — India has asked state-owned steelmakers to look into increasing their production of liquid medical oxygen to meet a shortfall caused by a surge in COVID-19 infections, the Ministry of Steel said on April 26.

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Due to the request, at least one plant -- the Bhilai steel plant operated by The Steel Authority of India Limited, or SAIL, has been temporarily shut to boost its LMO production. The plant has a production capacity of about 3.15 million mt/year.

SAIL has raised its average delivery of LMO to more than 800 mt/day, the ministry said, adding that the state-run steelmaker delivered 960 mt of LMO on April 24.

Total LMO supplied from SAIL's integrated steel plants at Bhilai, Bokaro, Rourkela, Durgapur and Burnpur from August 2020 until April 24 has been 39,647 mt.

Overall, steelmakers have increased their supply of liquid medical oxygen to more than 3,000 mt/day this week from an average of between 1,500 mt/day and 1,700 mt/day last week, the ministry said.

They supplied 3,131.84 mt of LMO on April 25, up from 2,894 mt on April 24, it said, in order to meet a nationwide shortage for oxygen as the country battles a surge in COVID-19 infections.

India reported 352,991 new coronavirus cases on April 26, breaking its own global record for a fifth day running, and 2,812 new deaths.

Given the urgent need for oxygen, steelmakers have reduced their captive stock of 3.5 days worth of oxygen to 0.5 days to meet the shortage.

Indian steel plants have a total LMO production capacity of 2,834 mt/day, the ministry said.