New Delhi: Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd is diverting oxygen produced at its refineries to supplement availability in worst-hit COVID states like Maharashtra and the trucks carrying supplies are in transit, sources said. Reliance's twin oil refineries in Jamnagar have through minor process modification converted industrial oxygen into medical-use oxygen that can be administered to COVID-19 patients low on oxygen, people aware of the development said.
In all, 100 tonnes of oxygen will be supplied from the Jamnagar refineries, they said. "The supplies will be free of cost since it is for a humanitarian cause," one of the persons said.
Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde too confirmed that the state would get 100 tonnes of oxygen from Reliance. The person cited above said the trucks carrying oxygen cylinders are in transit. However, another source said trucks are stuck in Jamnagar after local authorities stopped their movement.
Unable to get prompt supplies, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While Maharashtra is among the worst-hit states facing a fresh outbreak of the pandemic, Gujarat too has seen number of patients swell.
Over four dozen trucks carrying oxygen cylinders are stuck in Jamnagar, sources said.
An e-mail sent to the company for comments remained unanswered. Facing a huge shortfall in oxygen supplies, Thackeray is believed to have dialled Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the availability of medical oxygen. He also wrote to Modi saying medical oxygen requirement in the state is projected to reach 2,000 tonnes per day by April-end against the present requirement of 1,200 tonnes.
Oil refineries can produce limited volumes of industrial oxygen in air-separation plants meant for nitrogen production. Scrubbing out other gases such as carbon dioxide can convert it into medical-use oxygen with 99.9 per cent purity.
Reliance operates the world's largest oil refining complex at Jamnagar in Gujarat.