BY KENNETH MATIMAIRE
ZIMBABWE is now medical oxygen and industrial gas sufficient following the official opening of its first Air Separation Unit (ASU) plant expected to transform the country’s health and agricultural sectors.
The ASU plant was launched by President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday together with a 3MW solar power plant designed by state-owned Verify Engineering located at Feruka Oil Refinery.
The project will ensure that the country cuts its huge import bill by becoming medical oxygen and industrial gases sufficient.
The plant has an installed capacity to ensure daily production of 20 tonnes, 16,5 tonnes and 2,5 tonnes of gaseous oxygen, liquid oxygen and nitrogen, respectively.
“And we are told that within one week, they can produce what we require in this country,” Mnangagwa said during his keynote address.
Verify was established in 2005, but had hitherto remained underfunded.
The plant was acquired from India at a cost of US$10 million.
On October 7, 2019, Mnangagwa directed the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovations, Science and Technology to ensure that Verify starts the project.
The launch coincided with the high demand of medical oxygen, essential to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time there are growing fears of an imminent fourth wave.
Covid-19 patients experiencing serious symptoms depend on oxygen powered by ventilators.
The World Health Organisation indicated medical health oxygen is one of the 30 medicines essential to fight Covid-19.
Zimbabwe has been importing the bulk of its oxygen from South Africa.
Medical oxygen is largely used for first aid resuscitation in emergencies, during anaesthesia, life support and oxygen therapy while liquid nitrogen is also in high demand for use as a coolant for various medicines and vaccines.
Mnangagwa said apart from the health sector, the plant will also contribute significantly to other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture.
“In agriculture, my government made a deliberate decision to increase our national capacities with regards to aquaculture. Hence oxygen gas from this facility will have to boost fish yields, thereby improving the viability of fish farming as a business,” he said, indicating gas imports will also be stopped.