Arifur Rahman Rabbi
Industrial and manufacturing activities in re-rolling mills, glass factories and ship breaking yards will be hit hard by suspension of oxygen supply to industries due to high demand of oxygen at hospitals treating Covid-19 patients, say traders.
Following an upsurge in Covid-19 infections in the country and export ban of oxygen from neighbouring India, the government recently decided that all available oxygen would be supplied to hospitals treating Covid patients
Industry insiders fear production cut if the ban on oxygen supply to industries is prolonged.
Bangladesh Still Re-Rolling Mills Ltd Managing Director, Aameir Alihussain, told The Business Post that they need more liquid oxygen as factories are being unable to convert gas cylinders due to the ban. If such a situation continues, re-rolling mills in the country will definitely be affected.
Industrialists concerned said the government has to take steps now to increase oxygen production. Otherwise, both the medical and industrial sectors will be in dire straits.
The Department of Explosives sent letters to five oxygen-producing companies on April 23 to dedicate their production capacities in producing medical oxygen, said Chief Inspector Abul Kalam Azad.
The five oxygen producers are — Linde Bangladesh, Spectra Oxygen Limited, Islam Oxygen Limited, DR Industries Limited and Bangladesh Industrial Gas Limited.
On the other hand, oxygen manufacturers and suppliers said they generally use their capacity to produce 70 per cent industrial oxygen and 30 per cent medical oxygen and used to import oxygen from India when needed. But now it is closed.
Human resource official at Linde Bangladesh, Saiqa Mazed, told The Business Post that they have suspended the supply of industrial oxygen due to the increasing demand for medical oxygen.
Approval from the government is required to import oxygen from other countries while the Indian ban on oxygen export prevails, she said.
However, the price will be much higher than the agreement or tender set by the government with Linde and talks are on with the government about the matter, Saiqa added.
Chief executive officer of Islam Oxygen Ltd, Mustain Billah, said that oxygen is heavily used in various industries. From welding to cutting iron, many processes need oxygen. Industries will definitely feel the impact of the suspension of oxygen supply.
According to Mustain, the government must start considering ways of increasing local oxygen production as the import of oxygen seems farfetched.
Aameir Alihussain said that they do not have an oxygen plant and that they are running their production using oxygen from stocks, and are also collecting oxygen from the market.
He thinks that oxygen must be imported to tackle worse situations in the near future as industries will surely feel the pinch of halt in supply.
Director of Hi-Tech Steel & Re-Rolling Mills Ltd, Mostafizur Rahman, said that it is not just this particular industry but everywhere else oxygen is heavily used.
Factories stockpile oxygen for weeks of production and will fall in dire straits with their production if this suspension in supply is prolonged, he said.