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Sugar mills in Maharashtra are waiting for the outcome of the pilot at Dharashiv Sugar Mill, located in Osmanabad district, to produce oxygen at its ethanol plant. The success of the experiment could open the doors for the rest of the sugar mills in Maharashtra and other cane producing states to produce oxygen, currently in short supply and the dire need of the hour for Covid-19 patients.
Mill chairman Abhijit Patil is confident that the pilot will be successful. The Dharashiv Sugar Mill has modified its ethanol plant and is expecting to generate 20 metric tonnes of medical grade oxygen every day by catching and processing the oxygen which is released in the atmosphere, he said. The molecule required for purifying the oxygen to medical-grade has been installed and oxygen production is on the anvil according to Patil.
Last week, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief Sharad Pawar held a meeting of millers to discuss oxygen manufacturing in mills and had appealed to mills to come forward and contribute. Pawar insisted that sugar factories have been refining ethanol and separating carbon dioxide in distillation projects and now they have to just install an oxygen separation project.
Patil said that the ethanol plant having a capacity of 60-kilo litres per day has been modified to generate 20 metric tonnes of medical grade oxygen per day by catching and processing the oxygen, which otherwise is released in the atmosphere. The molecule required for purifying the oxygen to medical-grade has been sourced from Delhi and will reach any time now, he said, adding that trials should begin in the next five to six days. Patil said he was moved by the plight of people facing oxygen shortage during this Pandemic.
Osmanabad district alone has a total daily requirement of 18 metric tonnes of oxygen. The project, if successful, will meet Osmanabad district’s current requirement. Sugar mills in other districts could set up similar plants and take care of the needs of their respective districts, he said.
Jaiprakash Dandegaonkar, the president of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) had earlier stated that the decision to undertake the experiment was taken during an online meeting of sugar mill managements. “Till the time, the experiment for generating oxygen from ethanol plant gets completed, the federation has decided to purchase 700 oxygen concentrators for giving out to the needy Covid facilities,” he said.
Prakash Naiknavare, MD, NFCSF stated that at present none of the mills in the North are aware of this concept which has been mooted by the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) in Pune. The federation has prepared a concept note and has circulated this among members along with an appeal to set up similar projects in their regions, he said.