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Covid-19: Maharashtra Sugar Mills Gear up to Produce Oxygen

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
Workers unloading sugarcane at one of the sugar mills of Maharashtra

Maharashtra sugar mills are all set to produce and supply oxygen at their plants. This is a step taken in the wake of the oxygen crisis during the raging pandemic. The mills have decided to produce oxygen as a response to NCP President Sharad Pawar's appeal to all factories to utilize their facilities to produce and supply oxygen. The appeal letter was sent to the mills by the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI).  

Sharad Pawar is also the Chairman of VSI, located in Pune. This has been decided in a recent online meeting that discussed how to solve the present oxygen crisis. The meeting also saw the presence of Health Minister Rajesh Tope and Cabinet Minister Jayant Patil. Director General of VSI Shivajirao Deshmukh informed about the discussion of four options during a meet with the stakeholders.  

According to him, “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."  

Excerpts of the appeal letter:  

“Oxygen demand has increased in the current corona conditions. Therefore, all sugar mills should take the initiative and set up oxygen production plants. 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."  

"Factories have experience in refining ethanol and separating carbon dioxide in distillation projects. Therefore, all sugar mills should take the initiative and set up oxygen production plants."  

Statement of Shivajirao Deshmukh: 

"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. 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." 

Statement of the President of Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA), BB Thombare:  

"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."  

According to him, mills are ready to produce oxygen as a major social initiative during the Covid-19 crisis. Some mills have resumed production of sanitizers looking at the market demand.  

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