A Twist in the Tale of Hexane Production

by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd.
0 877 0.0/5

Disruptive Thinking:

The Revolution is in Full Swing    

“We do not merely want to be the best of the best.

We want to be the only ones who do what we do.”

—Jerry Garcia,


A brilliant innovation by BPCL Mumbai Refinery, resulted in making India,the first in the history of refining, to produce stringent quality hexane as a byproduct along with isomerate – a motor spirit blend component - from its Isomerization unit.This was done by delving into unchartered territory. This Isomerization unit has the world’s first top divided wall column.

What turned out to be an innovation did not set out to be one….,

It was almost seven years ago that the idea to co-produce hexane from isomerization unit had germinated when the existing semi regeneration reformer, at BPCL Mumbai Refinery, was being converted into an isomerization unit. Like most out-of-the-box ideas, bounced off in a group, this idea had a few contenders, two to be very specific, in favor of it.It was sheer foresight of the person at the helm of things, to be able to judge the merits of the idea, over the rising banterand incorporate it in the project.

Somewhere down the road, while the offers were being evaluated, came up an option of using a divided wall column to co-produce hexane from the isomerization unit. This option had the benefit of huge energy savings and low foot-print-area. This idea was vetoed outright. Thus began a tussle, to let go of the idea or pursue. To go or not to go where no refiner has gone before, use a divided wall column in an isomerization unit and that also to co-produce very stringent quality hexane. It was decision time, once more. The idea was rebooted. This time round, the scale tilted in its favor.

Now we were running with not one, but two newbies – unchartered territories

Challenges galore, different people have different ways of handling them. Some of us go with the gut feeling while people with more experience,work on guesstimates – calculated risks. This innovation was a mix of both. The person involved at the working level had a strong belief that ‘It can be done’ and ‘Not to let go’ while the person in the decision making position had the ability ‘To try something new’.

Other turning points, like is it feasible?, backing out by designers as the design was too complicated to try, columntaller than any other in the refinery, were much easier to cross as the conviction was strong. The thought process that, the design was too complicated to try, unearthed the possibility that we had stumbled upon something that was not only new but also shiny. 

The outcome of this drive and people’s ability to take bold decisionswas an out and out success. Besides the production of hexane of world class specification, which has modified the refinery product slate to include ‘pharmaceutical’ and ‘polymer’ grade hexane along with food grade hexane and that also at around 27% lesser energy consumption, it is the sense of having done something out of the ordinary, something which makes people sit-up and pay attention, something which has reduced our carbon foot print, something that has not been done elsewhere, that gives a sense of pride. It strengthens the belief that, “Perseverance Pays”. 

Time will tell if this innovation will get erased, like footsteps in sand, or leave an indelible mark.

Lessons Learned

Do not suppress ideas due to the fear of they may be rejected

Do not give up

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