General Science: Medical Oxygen, its Preparation and Transport, MPSC Study Notes

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 25th, 2023

The second wave of COVID-19 has been overwhelming for the health infrastructure in many of the states across India. Patients were found gasping for air as hospitals could not arrange enough oxygen supply.

Important for State PCS and other subordinate exams.

Medical Oxygen: Preparation and Transportation 

Oxygen Therapy helps patients with moderate and severe COVID better. Almost all states, particularly in North India, are struggling with the supply of oxygen medical oxygen.

What happens in Hypoxia?

  • Lack of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level in the body causes Hypoxia.
  • Lower than normal oxygen in the blood, specifically in the arteries.
  • Skin colour changes can be visible in lips, around eyes, in nails etc. 
  • State of confusion, i.e., feeling disoriented.
  • Coughing, i.e., severe asthma attack leading to symptoms worse
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Brain cells are very sensitive to a lack of oxygen. As a result, some brain cells start dying less than 5 minutes after their oxygen supply disappears.
  • Likewise, when the kidneys receive insufficient oxygen, chronic renal failure occurs.

COVID infection is divided into three types:

  1. Mild infection
  2. Moderate infection
  3. Moderate infection
  • Mild infection does not require oxygen. However, moderate and severe infections require oxygen at different levels.

Symptoms indicating oxygen requisite

  1. Breathing rate, i.e., respiratory rate more than 24 or higher breaths a minute or oxygen level as measured with a pulse oximeter (less than 94%) after medical evaluation.
  2. Oxygen is like a medicine with patients with chronic lung diseases; the indication here is very different as the patients need it for the long term.
  3. In COVID, the patient can rapidly deteriorate.
  4. The care and evaluation should occur only in the hospitals.
  5. Pneumonia like the situation is also seen in patients who may require oxygen for some period depending on the situation

What is medical oxygen?

  • Oxygen is regarded as medical grade oxygen used by hospitals and clinics in the treatment of various illnesses, especially those cause drop in the saturation level of oxygen in the body.
  • Many times, it is considered similar to a drug in the recovery of patients. The atmospheric air contains 21 per cent of oxygen, and the medical oxygen is highly concentrated. 

How is medical oxygen prepared?

i. The medical-grade oxygen is prepared by the process called cryogenic distillation. In this method, oxygen is produced in air separation plants where the air is cooled. Thereafter oxygen is distilled based on its boiling point.

  • In this same method, liquified air also separates nitrogen and argon. 

ii. The oxygen concentrator also generates medical oxygen from the air. 

  • An oxygen concentrator is a self-contained, electronically powered medical device that is designed to concentrate oxygen from the ambient air.
  • Pressure swing absorption (PSA) plants: this is another method of oxygen generation.
  • In this method, technology absorbs nitrogen from ambient air to concentrate oxygen for supply to hospitals.
  • Operate at near-ambient temperatures and use specific adsorbent material such as zeolites, molecular sieves and activated carbon etc., to trap oxygen at high pressure.

The cost involved with these processes

  • To set up a PSA plant Rs 33 lakhs.
  • Cost of oxygen cylinder – Rs 6000 to Rs 8000
  • Oxygen concentrator – Rs 40,000 to Rs 90,000  

Note: Govt has announced the setting up of 551 PSA Oxygen Generation Plants in the public health facilities across India through PM CARES fund. 

Storage of Liquid Oxygen

  • Liquid oxygen, once obtained, is stored either in cylinders and tanks in gaseous form under pressure.
  • Also, in cryogenic tanks at very low temperatures in liquid form
  • Presently, 1171 cryogenic tanks are there in the country for oxygen
  • As per the government, at present, the daily production capacity (including for industry use) of oxygen is 7127 MT, and the demand is 6600 MT.

Producers of medical oxygen

  • Inox Air Products is the biggest manufacturers of oxygen in India. It manufactures 60 per cent of the country’s total oxygen supply.

Transport of Oxygen

  • States like Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh are dependent on other states like Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Odisha for the supply of oxygen (as the plants are located).
  • As the urgency for supply increases, oxygen is being transported by road, rail and air.
  • The Indian Air Force is helping in airlifting cryogenic oxygen containers from different parts of the country to the states in need.
  • The Indian Railways is running an ‘Oxygen Express’ to deliver oxygen to states like Maharashtra. 
  • The cylinders were being transported from the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam (RINL) facility.

What is the hurdle in the availability of medical oxygen?

  • As per the stats, there is enough production of oxygen in the country, yet it is not available where it is needed. 
  • To transport medical oxygen, special tankers are required to drive to the destination. But there are not enough such tanks in the country.
  • There is a shortage of such cylinders and tankers for transport to meet the high demand.

Regulation of medical oxygen

  • Medical gases are regulated both by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce under the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO).

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