Industrial and specialty gases supplier Air Liquide has confirmed that medical oxygen consumption from hospital customers is “increasing very significantly” and that the necessary reallocation of oxygen supply to serve hospitals has resulted in a force majeure notice being issued to industrial customers.
Newspaper Business Day reported at the weekend that Air Liquide and Afrox Linde in December declared the force majeure to its industrial customers. A third supplier, Air Products, has not.
Bulk oxygen is used in the healthcare sector but is also essential to many other industries such as steelmaking, metals refining and fabrication, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and petroleum processing.
Air Liquide has warned of possible momentary interruptions in deliveries to industrial customers.
The company told Engineering News that in the face of the international Covid-19 pandemic, and especially in relation to the country’s second wave of infections, “Air Liquide’s teams are fully mobilised to address the needs in medical oxygen of the hospitals”.
“Air Liquide will not speculate on the duration and on the impact of the health crisis the world is facing today. In coordination with national health authorities, the group keeps monitoring the situation closely as it evolves and is adapting measures accordingly to ensure optimal support to its customers," it stated.
The impact of the force majeure on the manufacturing industry is as yet undetermined, with Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa chief economist Chifipo Mhango stating that “so far, there does not seem to be a shortage in the industry yet”.