Metal Makers Step Up Oxygen Supply as India Gasps for Breath
Workers load refilled oxygen tanks into a vehicle at a refill station in Navi Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Metal Makers Step Up Oxygen Supply as India Gasps for Breath

India’s metal producers are ramping up supplies of industrial-grade oxygen to state governments as demand surges amid a record jump in daily infections in the country.

The country with the fastest-growing Covid-19 caseload is battling a lethal new wave of infections that started surging in March. On Thursday, infections topped 300,000, with some hospitals in the capital city running low on oxygen supplies.

Vedanta Ltd. is supplying oxygen from its zinc and steel units to state governments and the Anil Agarwal company is also seeking permission to restart an oxygen plant at its closed copper complex in Tamil Nadu, it said in a statement. The plant can supply 1,000 tons of oxygen a day, it said.

India’s steel mills, including Tata Steel Ltd., JSW Steel Ltd. and Jindal Steel & Power Ltd., are also diverting their industrial oxygen stocks for medical purposes as demand escalates. Citizens have turned to social media to seek help, with desperate calls for help to secure medicines, hospital beds, and oxygen cylinders.

Jindal Steel, India’s third-largest producer of the alloy by market value, is supplying oxygen to hospitals in the states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, regions where the company runs its operations. The diversion of oxygen supplies has so far not affected India’s steel output much as most steelmakers are supplying the gas from their safety stocks of liquid oxygen, according to V.R. Sharma, managing director at the company.

“Maybe some 5% to 7% production loss can be there but it is nothing, and can be made up in times to come,” Sharma said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “The first and foremost priority is to save people and there is nothing more precious than lives.”

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