The Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA) has urged the petroleum ministry to ensure smooth and uninterrupted supply of hexane to soya processors.
DN Pathak, executive director of SOPA, said the association has been informed by many of its members that they are not getting adequate supply of hexane in a letter to Tarun Kapoor, secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
“Hexane is an essential consumable for oil extraction, and its non-availability is affecting operations of the plants. If supply of hexane is not ensured without interruption, plants will be forced to shut, and any large-scale closure of plants will cause disruption in operations, right from purchase of raw material from farmers to supply of end products (soyabean oil and meal) to consumers and poultry industry,” the letter said.
Hexane extraction is the most common method used in the industry to produce soybean oil due to its high oil recovery and lower production cost. Hexane in its pure form is a colorless liquid , and its boiling point is between 50℃ – 70℃. To begin the process of solvent extraction, oil seeds (soybean, rapeseed etc.) are removed of impurities and dried to reduce moisture content.
Then food grade hexane is fed as counter current and the solvent extracts oil from the flakes. Then the solvent is evaporated from the oil solvent mixture and from the defatted flakes by exposing them to steam by direct or indirect method.
The solvent is condensed to recover back hexane. The oil which is devoid of the solvent undergoes further processing to achieve commercial grade of oil.
Soya processing is in its peak season with prior commitments of processors to meet the demand of the poultry industry and also honour export orders. If the industry is forced to stop buying raw material, it will also cause stockpiling of soybean with farmers, he said.
SOPA has already notified BPCL and HOCL of the scarcity of hexane. One of HOCL’s hexane producing plants is temporarily closed. SOPA has urged the ministry to urgently intervene and advise oil companies to ensure smooth and uninterrupted supply of hexane.