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Saturday, September 18, 2021

COVID surge causes liquid oxygen issues for SpaceX, water utilities

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Demand for oxygen to deal with COVID-19 sufferers is spiking in the course of the newest pandemic surge, leaving liquid oxygen briefly provide for different makes use of, together with water purification and rocket launches. As provides get redirected to hospitals, different industries are scrambling to determine alternate options.

“We’re truly going to be impacted this 12 months with the dearth of liquid oxygen for launch,” Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, said earlier this week. “We definitely are going to ensure the hospitals are going to have the oxygen that they want, however for anyone who has liquid oxygen to spare, ship me an e-mail.”

Whereas oxygen is extraordinarily frequent within the ambiance, hospitals want excessive concentrations of it to deal with sufferers with broken respiratory methods, like individuals with extreme {cases} of COVID. Here in the US, getting extremely concentrated oxygen from place to put is normally achieved by chilling the gasoline right into a liquid, which is much less cumbersome however may cause its personal issues. Earlier this 12 months, there have been shortages in Los Angeles hospitals when tools used to turn the liquid back into a gas kept freezing over.

Now, hospitals are so flooded with COVID-19 sufferers that the growing demand is inflicting issues exterior the medical trade.

Rocket corporations like SpaceX usually use liquid oxygen as a propellant. Throughout a launch, it reacts with fuel (assume: rocket-grade kerosene), sending a spacecraft hovering. If the scarcity continues, it might presumably delay launches — however that hasn’t occurred but. “It is a threat, however not but a limiting issue,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Twitter.

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The scarcity can be placing oblique strain on different elements of the area trade. A gasoline provider for the United Launch Alliance is now targeted on addressing the dire oxygen state of affairs in Florida, a transfer that might change plans for a satellite tv for pc launch subsequent month, SpaceNews reported.

In the meantime, in Florida, some residents have been seeing — and in some {cases}, smelling — proof of the liquid oxygen shortfall of their water provides. Water utilities use liquid oxygen to create ozone. When ozone is used to treat water, it might probably destroy dangerous micro organism and viruses, and break down compounds that may make water style or odor funky. Chlorine and different chemical compounds can serve the identical perform, however oxygen has fewer byproducts.

In Orlando, shortages have led the native utility to ask residents to cease watering their lawns and preserve water in an effort to increase the availability of liquid oxygen. Sadly, the utility has solely seen a “average discount” in water demand, in response to an update posted on August twenty fifth. Residents decreased utilization from 90 million gallons per day to 82 million gallons per day, however the utility’s aim is to solely pump 50 million gallons per day “till LOX provides return to regular in Central Florida.”

Over in Tampa Bay, the water utility began utilizing bleach as an alternative of oxygen to deal with its water. The utility normally makes use of oxygen to take away hydrogen sulfide, a gasoline that smells like rotten eggs, from its water. In switching to bleach, the utility warned that “shoppers who’re delicate to style and odor modifications in ingesting water may discover a slight change throughout this era” though the standard and security will stay unchanged.

Florida has the very best COVID-19 hospitalization fee within the nation, according to CNN. In Tampa specifically, an emergency room was so crowded with COVID sufferers that there was a 12-hour wait.

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