The cleanest and most effective means to achieve the purest product with the highest potency is CO2 extraction. NuLeaf Naturals and many other premium brands use this extraction method. To isolate the individual compounds (CBD, terpenes, etc), the extracted oil needs to be distilled after extraction. Then there is a process called Winterization, followed by Short Path Distillation.
This post explores the many facets of making CBD oil; from the farm to the bottle.
Inside Look at how CBD oil is made
Plant to Product | CO2 Extraction
Cannabis and Hemp Extraction Explained: Ethanol vs. Supercritical CO2 vs Hydrocarbon Extraction
Inside Look at how CBD oil is made
It’s national CBD day; recognizing the hemp derived supplement that many people use daily for self-care.
But before it gets onto our store shelves, there’s an extensive process that starts it in the growing fields.
News 5s Jessica Barreto joining us live with more on that this morning. Right now I’m at the fields at Veritas Farms where we’re surrounded by about 38,000 hemp plants and I’m actually joined by the VP of agriculture here Spencer Fuller.
Spencer talk to me about what we’re seeing around us. Yep, right here we are in the middle of our field agriculture.
This is where all of our hemp plants flower off, they’re gonna be here until about October when we begin the harvest process.
We put these out in May and we’re expecting around 70,000 pounds of dried hemp plant. In the greenhouse we saw the moms and over here we’re seeing what the moms actually produced; all their little babies.
We do drip irrigation; basically, what that is is each little plant gets its own watering and we run that on a cycle through our own well here on on property and we’re a 100% organic cultivation.
Awesome and so you have some products, can you talk to me about what these are?
Right here we have our salve, it’s a cooling menthol, it’s really awesome super cooling obviously, and our moisturizing lotion – you can’t go wrong with that as well as our orange cream lip balm.
You can find these in Kroger stores, City Market, King Soopers.
How long does it take for us to see the plants here to them going inside those products? It’s gonna take us about six months to finish our process here before we hand it over to extraction.
Okay, awesome, anything else you wanted to ask?
No, I think just kind of enjoy the view. Thank You Spencer appreciate it!
Industrial hemp was federally legalized in 2018 with the passing of the farm bill so now you can find all these products online and inside retailers – always watching out for you Southern Colorado, Jessica Barreto, News5.
Want to know more about how NuLeaf Naturals CBD oil is made? Read the NuLeaf Review!
Plant to Product | CO2 Extraction
Hi, I’m JD, I’m the lead co2 extraction technician at the extract labs here in Boulder, Colorado.
Under certain pressures and temperatures, co2 acts as a solvent, so we take co2 and condense it down into a liquid.
It gets pumped through an extraction vessel where the material is kept. The co2 holds the essential oils off of the plant.
Material flows into a separation vessel. This is where the co2 will turn back into a gas and the essential oil falls to the bottom of the collection vessel.
The gaseous co2 is then reconvince and pumped back through the system. co2 is the best way to extract essential oils because it is more safe, cleaner for the environment, and is less harsh than some of your hydrocarbon or ethanol solvents.
co2 is very tunable, meaning we can just strip the essential oils off without dissolving the chlorophyll and fats and waxes.
On an average week we can process anywhere from two to five hundred pounds of plant material. Usually on average, runs take from anywhere from six to nine hours based on plant material, quality, the grind and so on.
What attracted me to hemp extraction? Basically, the love of the plant.
I love the whole chemical compound behind it, I love doing extractions, I’ve been doing it for a very long time and I just love CBDs and hemp in general.
Cannabis and Hemp Extraction Explained: Ethanol vs. Supercritical CO2 vs Hydrocarbon Extraction
Hey guys, it’s Nick with Precision here and today I want to talk to you guys about the fundamentals between co2 and solvent based extraction.
What we want to talk about is the fundamentals of the solvent. We’re gonna start with co2, so co2 typically in the atmosphere, as you guys probably well know, is a gas.
It’s all surrounding us everywhere but in order to make it a solvent it needs to go into what’s called subcritical or supercritical phase.
What happens with a supercritical phase is you’re compressing and you’re heating that gas in order to make it into a fluid form, typically called supercritical fluid extraction.
If it’s at the lower end of that range, sub critical fluid extraction.
This technology has been around for years, it’s been used in coffee, it’s been used in vanilla, types of artisanal extracts, it’s really, really good for decaffeination, they use it in dry cleaning, the technology has been around and about 10 years ago when cannabis really started getting large and people started looking towards cannabis extracts.
They said hey why don’t we try this supercritical co2? So, the history of the solvent is that it’s been used very widely and people look to repurposing it into the cannabis industry right which they started to do maybe you know eight nine years ago and it started to really get big about six or seven years ago
All these supercritical co2 applications popped up for cannabis specifically and when you look at the fundamentals of the solvent the the difference between co2 and a different solvent like hydro carbon or ethanol is co2 doesn’t do a great job at actually extracting the cannabinoids
You’ve got your your cannabinoid structure that’s contained within your trichome and your trichome is a mushroom like shape on the outside of the leaf of the plant and that’s what contains all your goodies that you you know your terpenes your your CBD your THC your cbn your CBG all those things are contained within that mushroom trichome structure.
What we want to do with the solvent of any kind is dissolve that structure and isolate those molecules. Now supercritical co2 can do this but it’s a very weak solid so if you think of a solvent and you think of a molecule like like a lock on one side and a key on the other you want to find the perfect key that goes into the lock and you’re kind of sliding it in there you’re turning that lock andthat door is opening.
With supercritical co2 it’s kind of similar to trying to jam a screwdriver into the lock it’s going to work but it takes a lot of power a lot of pressure which is why you see these systems that operate between 1,500 to 5000 psi and because of the nature of the solvent the solvent has to be repeatedly passed over that trichome structure.
We’re continuously passing this this solvent that doesn’t have great solubility with cannabinoids and with that trichome structure of the plant over this plant in order to get our goodies out so to speak so that’s why co2 units have a long cycle time typically what you’re gonna see is anywhere between on the very low end to hours which will diminish your yield and diminish your your returns on your actual processing and you’re also going to see longer cycle times the more material that you put in there generally.
These can be manipulated in a number of different factors. A lot of the co2 companies have drastically improved upon the old days you know the old days it was eight hours per run, they’ve improved that by running things like subcritical.
Running things like a higher pressure sometimes up to 5,000 psi but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of the solvent, the solvent is is is not the best key for our lock in order to get those cannabinoids and those chemicals out of the plant that we’re desiring.
That is a fundamental overview of why co2 technologies aren’t as applicable now when you look at the equipment side of co2 right obviously it stands to common sense that if you got to have something that’s going up to you know 1,500 2,000 5,000 psi you can imagine at scale it’s simply not economical or feasible in order to have those technologies at scale because if you think about a gigantic vessel that needs to go to 5,000 psi think about the amount of engineering that goes in there.
The shell thickness, the valve, the safety precautions, obviously when you’re working at those types of pressures there’s a fundamental safety concern. Now if it’s properly engineered equipment of course the machines operate safely, there’s not a thorough history of accidents or things like that but that it takes more dollars which is why dollars two dollars when you’re looking at co2 equipment, the equipment is actually quite a bit more expensive than solvent based.
What really happens with all this total scenario as you start weighing out all these variables between co2 and solvent based, against the equipment, against how how you’re going to scale, what’s right for your business, how you’re going to apply these technologies to your end products.
That’s a lot of what we do here at precision, is we we look at our client’s needs, we understand what it takes for an end-to-end process to integrate and that’s part of what differentiates our company, we are end-to-end process integrators, not just somebody that’s gonna sell you a piece of equipment and walk away.
What I’d like to do is really is compare that with the fundamentals of solvent based extraction and when we talk about solvents we’ll talk about the three most popular which would be butane, propane, and ethanol.
There’s a lot of other solvents out there that work, there’s a lot of other solvents that may come into play in the future, but we’re gonna focus around the primary three that are that are used today in the cannabis and hemp industry and we’ll talk about how those apply more readily to large scale especially in CBD production and hemp production.
On the other side of this coin I want to talk about solvent based extraction, I want to talk about how it compares with co2 specifically so let’s go back to our lock and key analogy. Our lock and key analogy is we want to find the the perfect key to go into the lock and on this side is our molecule that we’re trying to extract and on this side is our key. Our key is our solvent and we’ve not found generally a better key in the history of extraction over the last decade or so then butane and propane.
Butane and propane are nonpolar solvents with light boiling point and what that’s going to yield is it’s going to go in there it’s gonna bind to all of your cannabinoids or terpenes and the desirable aspects of the plant.
Most of them are made with butane and propane you get that really beautiful light color that terpene rich smell which is very very applicable to artisanal cannabis markets and it’s also very applicable to moderate scale different types of manufacturing and making different products.
Now we start to make a little bit of a paradigm shift because butane and propane as most of you probably well know are flammable solvents and they also contain a little bit of pressure which means it costs a little bit more money to engineer the equipment, the shell thicknesses on the equipment have to be a little bit thicker but not like co2 right at co2, we’re talking about 5000 psi butane and propane we’re talking about anywhere from 50 to 150 psi so much much lower pressure is much safer working environment over all.
We want to keep these vapors contained so they’re not ignitable and you want to stay in a class one division one room and take all these proper safety precautions. Our company has done thousands of installations of hydrocarbon equipment across the entire world at this point and we can we can honestly say that I think we’re experts in hydrocarbon extraction and we understand that hydrocarbon actually does pull the best terpene profile the best cannabinoid profile out of the cannabis plant. However, at large scale you can start to see where the actual hurdles come in so to speak.
How do i process 2,000 pounds a day with hydrocarbon on a large scale? It starts to get very costly and very engineering heavy let’s call it because you have to have all of these different vessels, everything has to be under pressure, everything has to be class 1 division 1 rated so it’s not really feasible for large-scale CBD extraction or large-scale hemp extraction.
What we like to usually say is if you’re an artisanal brand that means you’re processing about a thousand pounds of input biomass per day or less. Once you start crossing over that threshold the cost of engineering the equipment, the cost of the redundancy, and the batch equipment and the cost of the hydrocarbon equipment becomes prohibitive.
It’s why you see a large trend towards ethanol. Let’s talk about ethanol from a chemical standpoint for a minute. Going back to our lock and key method ethanol is also a very good key for our lock but the problem with ethanol is because the polarity of the solvent it’s an extremely polar solvent so the extremely polar solvent yes it will bind to our cannabinoids and our terpenes.
The problem is is that it’s also going to bind to chlorophylls and to other water-soluble or undesirable compounds within the plant. Traditionally what everyone has done to combat both those water soluble molecules and those chlorophylls is they’ve chilled their ethanol down.
Those of you that are watching this video that are experienced you may very well know if you run your ethanol at negative 40 or below generally you’re you’re able to bypass a lot of the chlorophylls, you’re able to bypass a lot of the lipids and the phosphide profiles. Things that are going to gum up your process downstream but the problem is is that how do you chill all this ethanol on a massive scale?
We’re in a different a different era now so to speak, how do we use ethanol a scale for CBD that we’re doing 10,000 pounds a day? Well it comes down to properly engineered equipment it comes down to proper mass balance it comes down to proper post processing procedures where you need an end to end engineered solution which is what we’ve done with our KPD Series.
It’s not just pouring ethanol over plant matter, there’s refinement of the product, there’s variabilities in the biomass, there’s there’s all sorts of things that are coming down the pipeline that affect your yield, they affect your distillate quality, they affect your crystallization.
All these different variables that you need to have a thorough understanding of. Processing at scale it can be done, you just need to have an understanding and a strong team that understands all these variables and how to combat. But from a from a fundamental standpoint of scaled extraction ethanol is fantastic because you don’t have the pressures, there’s absolutely zero vapor pressure which means none of your vessels are under pressure, you’re not operating under pressure.
It has significantly less flammability than then hydrocarbon and it’s significantly safer than co2 and the fact that it’s not pressurized, people like ethanol because they know most of us go out to the bar every Friday and Saturday night and drink it, we ingest it as a relatively safe solvent, generally recognized as safe from the FDA.
Let’s talk about an overview of the common misconceptions that come with solvent based extraction. People tell you all you extract with a solvent you extract with butane or propane you’re gonna have residual butane and propane in your product. That’s absolutely not true.
What happens is once the product is extracted there may be trace amounts of butane and propane but it goes through a heating and purging process typically that’s done either in vacuum drying ovens or in decarboxylation or in distillation.
That’s going to remove that solvent and there’ll be zero parts per million of any sort of residual solvent. Same thing with ethanol, ethanol is a little bit harder to take off because it has a higher boiling point, it’s not as volatile, doesn’t make easy but it’s going to be pulled off and decarboxylation or in in distillation.
It’s ironic because a lot of the people that that preach anti solvent extraction in the CBD market realized once they get to crystallization that they’re forced to use pentane. Pentane is a group D hydrocarbon and needs to be purged, needs to be dealt with in the class one division one room, needs to have all these parameters.
Again, understanding your process and working with educated people, not believing a lot of the marketing hype that’s out there because everybody wants to sell you equipment. At the end of the day, do they know how to integrate your process and and do they really understand the science of what’s happening behind the process?
Have they done it before, did they have a long operational history? These are things that I would definitely ask the people that you’re potentially doing business with.
A lot of what we do here with our R&D team is that we test these processes, we test new parameters, we’re working on ways to optimize the extraction process. Our company, while we’re an equipment manufacturer, we’re a process integrator, but we always focus as an innovative technology company.
We’re always looking at disruptive technologies, what’s going to change in the future market trends, what’s going to happen to these markets, how do we get the scale for lower cost? We look at all these variables, and that all starts on the bench which you guys can see the lab behind me.
We work with our team very closely and we’re always working to find a more efficient more effective process while still being able to integrate the existing processes and making them work really well.
I thank you guys for listening today and thanks for watching the video appreciate it.
Full-time Student, Blogger, and works at FN-Hemp
Photography, Animals, Environment, Tolerance
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