Steel Plants: Supplying life saving oxygen

“We will eat food only when the work is done.” Following is the statement of employees of Inox Bokaro Oxygen of Steel Authority of India Limited, Jharkhand. Steel plants have been supplying liquid medical oxygen to hospitals to cater to all the medical needs in the country these days. On Tuesday, 3,650-tonne oxygen was dispatched crossing the supply over 3000/tonne.

Why do steel plants require oxygen?

Oxygen has an industrial use too, however, unlike hospitals, industries require the gaseous form of oxygen. It is used in different industries for different purposes.

In steel plants, oxygen is primarily used for making steel. In addition to that, it is used in basic oxygen furnaces and electric arc furnaces as well as in the secondary steel-making processes.

Oxygen itself is non-flammable. However, it enhances combustion and enables all materials that are flammable in the air to burn more vigorously. This combustion-supporting property of oxygen makes it useful in many industrial applications.

Some other uses of oxygen in a steel plant includes:

-Oxygen is used for blast furnaces too. From lancing of clogged tap holes to enriching the blast air in the blast furnace, oxygen is an essential element in furnaces.

-It is used in oxy-fuel cutting of the cast product in a continuous casting machine.

-It is used in oxy-fuel burners in reheating furnaces.

-Oxygen is used for the enrichment of combustion air in different burners.

-It is used for oxy-lancing of steel. Lancing is a cutting process in which oxygen is used through a consumable steel pipe to make holes in a metal substance.

-It is also used in steel scarfing

-Oxygen is used with fuel gases in gas welding, gas cutting, flame cleaning, flame hardening, and flame straightening.

How is oxygen produced?

In our atmosphere, oxygen accounts for 21%, nitrogen 78%, and argon and the remaining gases account for 1%. Oxygen is produced from the air through the process of ‘Fractional Distillation’ at oxygen plants primarily for captive use in integrated steel plants.

Hence, captive oxygen plants in integrated steel plants are designed to produce gaseous products of Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Argon and then routed through a procedure to meet the process need at the desired pressure.

Such oxygen plants can produce 5-6% (maximum) Liquid Oxygen (LOX) at its peak capacity. Liquid Oxygen is what is required by hospitals for oxygen therapy and treatment of people.

Of the total production of oxygen, 85% is utilised by industries, while only 15% is required for medical treatment.

Despite the huge requirement of oxygen in a steel plant, steel plants have been saving lives by supplying oxygen, which is the urgent need of covid patients across the country.

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