Amidst the rising mismatch between the demand and supply of oxygen in Maharashtra, its sugar industry has stepped in to save the day. 189 sugar factories participated in the crushing season for 2020-21. And, 117 distilleries are engaged in the production of ethanol. Both can help with the production of oxygen using the existing set up.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, who is also the chairman of the Pune-based research and development organisation Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI), had asked sugar factories and distilleries to produce medical oxygen and supply it to nearby COVID-19 centres. VSI director general Shivajirao Deshmukh also sent a communication, saying that sugar factories and functional distilleries can use the existing technology and manpower to produce medical oxygen.
These factories can produce oxygen through steam and the power generated from the cogeneration projects. Pawar has also asked sugar units, which have completed their crushing season, to utilise their premises to set up COVID-19 care centres and supply oxygen kits to patients.
Pawar explained the COVID-19 situation in the state has become grim. The state and central governments have been trying their best to have adequate and sustained oxygen supply. He urged sugar cooperatives to take the lead by utilising their existing infrastructure, human resources and funds, if required, to set up oxygen production projects.
Sugar cooperatives have experience in purifying ethanol in distillery projects. In the process, carbon dioxide is separated. Now, they need to only separate oxygen.
Factories should take information of the vacuum pressure swing adsorption process, he suggested.