Impex system

Airco DIET, the world’s premier supplier of tobacco expansion plants also holds the License rights for the Impex tobacco expansion process.

impex brochure

The first 3 Imperial process systems entered production in 1995

The process is an off line batch process that expands tobacco in its final primary form prior to actual product manufacture. The development began due to the need for Imperial to replace its RJ G13C expansion process used in cigar manufacture because the process used a CFC expansion agent now banned under the Kyoto Agreement.

Isopentane was identified as the expansion agent to replace G13C and the system was developed to utilize isopentane in a controlled and safe manner whilst providing the required expansion. Isopentane is a commonly used product found in shaving foam and toothpaste.

The first 3 Imperial process systems entered production in 1995 at the Imperial Tobacco cigar factory in Bristol with a 4th plant following in 1996. Imperial then adopted the same process for cigarette tobaccos at Nottingham in 2000, where there are now 3 plants in operation.

Impex was first developed by Imperial Tobacco with some engineering support and the name is taken from Imperial expansion

Skid mounted for secure installation

Over a five year period from 2004 to 2009, considerable engineering and manufacturing improvements have been made to the system design including the control systems so that it could expand all types of tobacco, including flue, oriental, burley and cigar tobaccos. Impex tobacco benefits from little or no colour change during the process, no loss in nicotine, very minimal loss of sugar, no system degradation and retention of strand length.

Impex condensed the Imperial design so that it could be installed in a smaller space. Each autoclave process unit now fits on a single standard 40ft container sized “Skid”.  The system is modular, with each individual Skid capable of expanding between 500 and 1,500 tonnes per annum, with no limit to the number of additional skids running in parallel to give the desired capability.  Ancillary systems are supplied as required. 

Skid mounted for secure installation

Over a five year period from 2004 to 2009, considerable engineering and manufacturing improvements have been made to the system design including the control systems so that it could expand all types of tobacco, including flue, oriental, burley and cigar tobaccos. Impex tobacco benefits from little or no colour change during the process, no loss in nicotine, very minimal loss of sugar, no system degradation and retention of strand length.

Impex condensed the Imperial design so that it could be installed in a smaller space. Each autoclave process unit now fits on a single standard 40ft container sized “Skid”.  The system is modular, with each individual Skid capable of expanding between 500 and 1,500 tonnes per annum, with no limit to the number of additional skids running in parallel to give the desired capability.  Ancillary systems are supplied as required. 

The first new version Impex system was supplied to an Indonesian company in 2005

This was a triple skid installation and was a CE prototype.  The first production version was supplied to the USA, also a triple installation but built to UL.  Three single skid systems have also been supplied, two into Europe and one to Indonesia.

The tobacco markets worldwide are still growing for expanded and the Impex system has specific advantages particularly in terms of the small size and modular build of the equipment and the fact that the tobacco is not altered much by the process. 

With cigarette manufacturers under both regulatory and financial pressures, expanded tobacco continues to be an attractive commodity.  It is an important tool in the design of low tar products as well as a means to provide savings via reduced tobacco usage.  RYO are selling 100% Impex (and DIET) expanded blends and Cigar manufacturers currently use 100% of expanded tobacco filler (Impex and DIET) in their products.