Help: carbon footprint of medical oxygen?

Laura-Jane Smith's picture

Hi network,

I'm supervising an inpatient oxygen presribing QIP. I'd really like to try to motivate people into good oxygen use using a sustainability framework. I am struggling to work out how to quantify the impact of oxygen waste/savings. The only thing I can find on carbon footprnts of oxygen is this: which is methodology but doesn't really help. This talks about carbon intensity but I'm not sure of the relevance:

I'd be really grateful for any help! Thanks. LJ




Toby Hillman's picture


There isn't very much on this. I contacted BOC and Air Liquide a while back, and they weren't very forthcoming.

However, I spoke with Tom Pierce about this - he is sustainability lead at RCoA.

Oxygen seems to be a by-product of other gas manufacturing so they don't tend to calculate.  However, I think it might be worth pursuing for some of the other costs associated with it - rather than just manufacture.  These would be transport etc.

This is going to be hard to do for inpatients, but for LTOT would make a lovely project. 

There is a LOT more awareness of oxygen flows from central supplies now too following COVID surges so you might find some interesting metrics there about use of oxygen depending on mode of ventilation etc, and ultimately the overall use of the hospital depending on how many meters are left flowing at 5L/min when hanging up on the wall. 






Heather Baid's picture

Tom Pierce talks about oxygen waste in this YouTube video:

Some of my students on ICU nursing course that I lead have used one of their assignments to audit how much oxygen is delivered to patients (to identify how often patients are over oxygenated to identify opportunity for improving clinical care but also reduce finanical and carbon footprint waste).  Let me know if you'd like futher information.  I would be very interested to see the results of your project too.  Preventing oxygen waste is even more pertinent now because of the pandemic as noted in previous comment above.

There is likely to be presentations on this type of thing at the upcoming SHARE conference on 7 May 2021 (free online via Zoom) - registration now open and programme to be available soon:





Nick Hopkinson's picture

There's a referenced cost per L here. Depends on the source of electricity


"Oxygen is produced by the fractional distillation of liquified air, a more energyÔÇÉintensive process than the compression of air for medical purposes. Based on data from Ecoinvent [2], the production of 1 l of oxygen requires approximately 0.001 kWh of electricity, whereas the production of 1 l of medical air requires 0.0003 kWh."




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