Minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) or near dry machining has been recognized by many researchers and industrialist in order to move one step ahead towards the green manufacturing. MQL assisted machining reduces the harmful environmental impact caused by flood coolant and machining cost. In this paper an attempt has been made to study the impact of oxygen as a carrier gas in MQL during end milling of austenitic stainless steel grade SS304. Also, the machining performance under conventional MQL with air and dry machining have been studied. The evaluation was done on tool wear, surface roughness and cutting forces under two distinct cutting speeds i.e. 75 m/min and 100 m/min. Investigation brings to light that presence of oxygen is susceptible in the case of machining of SS304, it provides extra protective oxide layer near the tool chip interface. Consequently, increased tool life, reduced surface roughness and cutting forces when compared to conventional MQL assisted milling. © Published under licence by IOP Publishing Ltd.