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Get Started with CO2 Extractions for Hemp & CBD

Ever wondered what hemp-derived extract looks like right out of the SFE Pro? Kind of like this…

Green Mill’s SFE Pro is the perfect machine for extracting oil from hemp using supercritical carbon dioxide. It is affordable enough and small enough to fit into a small extraction lab and powerful enough for a large one. Our system’s unique advances are discussed here.

But before you decide on an extraction machine you need to have things in order regarding your larger goals with the lab. Aside from whether you will grow your own hemp or buy it from a third-party grower, there are other key questions to ask when starting a new hemp/CBD operation:

What product do I want to make and what customers do I want to serve?

How much capital do I have available to build out my initial space and develop my product(s)?

What are the laws and market conditions in the state where I will operate?

How do I intend to scale the business?

What product do I want to make and what customers do I want to serve?

If you thought “CBD” was the product, think again. It’s merely the compound you’re targeting as the active ingredient in the final product you or your customer will sell. We have clients who’ve installed an SFE Pro in a souped-up shipping container to process third-party firms’ biomass, and others with large labs and multiple retail dispensaries where they sell their own product that they extract themselves. Here are just some of the products you could make in your extraction lab with the oil that comes out of the SFE Pro:

Crude oil (straight from the machine with no refinement)

Crystals or Sheets

Be sure to thoroughly research them all.

You can then choose to either develop products under your own brand to sell retail, or you can sell the CBD in bulk to other companies who would use it to develop their products. These products could take the form of:

Creams and gels

Food and beverages

The other consideration is who is your customer? CBD is commonly used in general “wellness” products, but it is also used to treat very serious illnesses. A health enthusiast who wants to supplement for energy or quality of sleep or mood optimization is one type of customer, but a parent looking for something to help their child suffering from epilepsy is completely different.

How much capital do I have available to build out my initial space and develop my product(s)?

All of the things above will determine what kind of investment is required to get your facility up and running. Be warned: this is expensive. A complete extraction lab can easily require more than $300k to set up. That’s not including a grow facility such as a hemp greenhouse or farm.

Get your plan in place, find the financing, and then contact us. We can help you with a lot of the business details, but you have to have the basics on paper to get the full benefit of our expertise.

What are the laws and market conditions in the state where I will operate?

While the 2018 Farm Bill technically legalizes hemp in all 50 states, there is still a lot of ambiguity around how the law will be implemented and individual states are going to have different legalization landscapes. For example, in Idaho, hemp is illegal and they are still arresting people for transporting it even when it conforms to the Farm Bill’s requirements. And then there’s federal USDA regulations, which have not yet been written.

For some states the Farm Bill is the first type of cannabis legalization they’ve experienced, and for others there is either an existing medical or recreational market already in place. Be sure to assess the risks and rewards of both.

Try to determine how crowded the space is for the type of business you want to start. This factor can work against you or for you. A more crowded space means more competition but also more established rules around how to operate.

How do I intend to scale the business?

Cannabis is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world today, forecast to expand at a rate of 25-35% per year. There’s a lot of upside — if you can keep up. Like few in history, any new cannabis business has to be ready to grow from day one. You want to get in quickly but smartly. If super-fast growth is not something you’re interested in then you’d better make up for it in efficiency so you can keep your prices competitive as more players enter the market. Because they will enter.

One final thought

There is an infinite number of ways to approach your business. Creativity will be rewarded in this industry more than any that have come before because the rules are not set. We’re here to help you craft your own vision for a hemp business that is right for you. Reach out if you have any questions whatsoever. We love to talk extractions with anyone!

Green Mill’s SFE Pro is the perfect machine for extracting oil from hemp using supercritical carbon dioxide. Here is a brief guide on some key considerations when strategizing your hemp/CBD operation. Visit Green Mill Supercritical

A Guide to Cannabis Extraction Equipment and Machines

Before any CBD oil, THC tincture, weed butter or cannabis concentrate can be bought, first, it must be extracted. This is the job of cannabis extraction equipment, the machines that remove the coveted cannabis compounds from the plant’s matrix (a process explored in more detail here).

And just like any other piece of kit, an inevitable question arises when considering extraction machines: which one’s the best value for money?

Some are industrial, some are the size of a kettle. Some use CO2 as a solvent, others utilize alcohol. All have their pros and cons which can be listed in a nice, handy guide to cannabis extraction equipment and machines. A guide just like this:

CO 2 Cannabis Extraction

CO2 might not be the cheapest solvent going, but its benefits can be worth the price tag. In these machines, high heat and pressures turn the gas supercritical, enabling it to extract higher yields than many other solvent methods.


The BOSS CO2 Extraction System

Automation at all stages has already improved the extraction process, especially with regard to repeatability and accuracy. Quadron Cannatech focuses on developing automated extraction systems specifically for the cannabis industry. Its BOSS CO2 Extraction System incorporates automated controls that eliminate the use of manual valves and has been designed to make load and unload times as short as possible to increase production capacity. The company claims that by streamlining the process its setup can process 20 pounds of cannabis material in 4 hours and run continuously without supervision, enabling a total of 6 runs per day.

The BOSS CO2 extraction system. Credit: Quadron Cannatech

The price: approximately $250,000

Pros Cons
Small footprint Not suitable for small-scale production
Relatively low energy costs Relatively expensive
Automated batch loading CO2 must be stored carefully
Easy to use for this kind of system Operates at high pressures
Does not require harmful solvents Relatively complex

CannabisSFE

In all extraction methods, throughput will always be a key element for improvement. For example, the CannabisSFE, a supercritical CO2 extraction system from Supercritical Fluid Technologies, is able to perform both at subcritical (for terpenes) and supercritical levels (for cannabinoids) with simple setting adjustments. Flexibility and scalability in throughput are always desirable attributes, particularly in the fast-paced cannabis industry where companies grow fast and requirements can change overnight.

The CannabisSFE Supercritical CO2 Extraction Unit. Credit: Supercritical Fluid Technologies.

The price: $49,500

Pros Cons
Small footprint Not suitable for large scale production
Suitable for average scale production No automated loading between runs
Scalable capacity CO2 must be stored carefully
Add-ons available to enhance functionality Operates at high pressures
Does not require harmful solvents Relatively complex

Hi-Flo FX2 20L 5K

The Hi-Flo™ High Performance Series is known for its processing powers, and one of the latest in the series, the FX2 20L 5K, is no exception. Capable of processing as much as 107lbs of biomass a day, the extractor offers up to 5,000 psi and a rapid change-over for maximum extraction times.

The Hi-Flo FX2 20L 5K. Credit: Eden Labs LLC.

The price: $175,000

Pros Cons
Closed-loop design with up to 95% CO2 recapture rate Requires a well-ventilated, tightly controlled lab environment
Fast terpene capture with advanced oil integrity cup design Not suitable for small scale operators
Easy step-by-step protocol for upkeep Relatively expensive
No internal moving parts so fewer points of failure Requires scientific expertise to optimize
Energy efficient Lower capacity than some competitors

Apeks Supercritical CO2 System

The most industrial extraction products deserve intimidating names, and the Force is certainly no exception. Able to process a colossal 200 pounds of dried botanical material every day, Apeks Supercritical’s system is optimized to tackle the biggest workloads in the industry. This one’s for the pros.

The Force TM . Credit: Apeks Supercritical

The price: start at $445,000

Pros Cons
Can perform supercritical and subcritical extractions Hefty price tag
Equipped with CO2 storage tank Not suitable for small operations
Fully automated Extensive scientific expertise required to run and optimize system
Works for large scale operations High energy consumption

Super C Extractor

Compared to the industrial behemoths, OCO Labs’ SuperC extractor looks like a toy. But don’t be fooled by its size; for the right buyer, this little extractor has is it all-in-one. Capable of processing 1oz at 4500 psi by itself, the SuperC’s capabilities can also be expanded with purchased additions such as OCO Labs’ rack specs.

The SuperC. Credit: OCO Labs.

The price: $4000

Alcohol Cannabis Extraction

Like CO2, alcohol is one of the most commonly used solvents for cannabis extraction. Cheap to source, the ethanol soaks up the prized compounds, which can then be separated via evaporation. But this cheap solution doesn’t come without its challenges. Ethanol is highly flammable, and any temperature change can drastically alter the final product. Luckily, these machines come with instruction manuals.


Across International Rotovap

Built more like a home chemistry set than an industrial extractor, Across International’s Rotovap might be the perfect choice for a savvy buyer. Plus, thanks to its smaller volume, the Rotovap offers much more control over the evaporation of liquid phase materials. Any downsides, of course, stem from the extractor’s stripped back design. For example, any cooling system will have to be purchased separately.

The Ai SolventVap 5.3G/20L Rotary Evaporator. Credit: Across International.

The price: $19,470

Pros
Cons
Much more affordable than other products Minimal temperature control
One-year warranty Accessories, such as chillers and pumps must be bought separately
Suitable for small scale operations Very limited loading capacity
Simple and easy to use Lacks flexibility
Small volumes allow fine controls Alcohol extracts must be treated to remove unwanted co-extracts like chlorophyll

Genius ASAHI Rotary Evaporator

Like Across International’s Rotovap, the Genius ASAHI Rotoray Evaporator’s choice of solvent, alcohol, helps to keep it affordable. Two cold chambers can help to keep chlorophyll trapped in the plant matter, making the final product lighter in color and more flavorful.

Genius ASAHI Evaporator. Credit: Genius Extraction Technologies, Inc.

The price: varies depending on size.

Pros Cons
Removes solvents at low temperatures to preserve terpenes and cannabinoids Accessories, such as chillers and pumps must be bought separately
Much more affordable than other products Limited loading capacity in smaller models
Easy cleaning and maintenance Lacks flexibility
A variety of sizes are available Extraction process is completely manual

Source Turbo

The extractor for the on-the-go cannabis connoisseur, the Source Turbo can be operated remotely via a mobile app. No day is too jam-packed for this extract. As an extra feature, the Turbo also comes equipped with altitude-specific tuning, so it can operate at its best performance whether up in the mountains or down on the beach.

Source Turbo. Credit: Extract Craft.

The price: $599

Pros Cons
Suitable for home-use Very low production capacity
Easy to use Alcohol extracts can require extensive clean up
Does not require harmful solvents Not suitable for commercial extraction

Part of the evolution of any form of equipment comes from the introduction of new methods. ESCET, for example, have developed a method that enables cannabis extraction with low-proof alcohol, such as bourbon or vodka, plus vegetable oil and water. The company claims that this method is “non-flammable, has no moving parts, and operates at normal pressure.” As the process is currently patent pending, data to prove the efficacy of this method are promising but unavailable.

The price: unknown.

Pros Cons
Does not require harmful solvents Not commercially available
Very easy to use No public data available to prove efficacy
No dangerous chemicals or equipment required Alcohol extracts can require extensive clean up

Butane Cannabis Extraction

Butane, or propane in some instances, can be seen as similar solvents to CO2 in many ways. The butane is pressurized and heated, which transforms it from liquid to a vapor, making it easier to remove. This process creates a shatter, a clear material of THC, CBD and other cannabis compounds like terpenes. Although effective, the process can be undesirable for medicinal products, due to the risk of contamination.


The PX40 Extraction System

Throughput and scalability have been the focus of manufacturers of hydrocarbon solvent-based extraction equipment too. Precision Extraction Solutions, for example, continuously update their flagship PX40 Extraction System, which is ominously known as the Executioner. Run using either butane or propane, or a mix of both, this system can process up to 360lbs of material in a 10-hour shift of runs. The $189,000 price tag comes with the assurance that any extractor will be able to process vast amounts of cannabis using a machine that has been built above and beyond regulatory compliance. Plus, on-demand heating and chilling enables maximum control with ease of operation.

The PX40 Extraction System, also known as the Executioner. Credit: Precision Extraction Solutions.

The price: starts at $189,000

Pros
Cons
Easy to use for this kind of system Uses hydrocarbon solvents which must be removed
Compatible with propane and butane gas High cost
High capacity Not suitable for small-scale production
High throughput Hydrocarbon solvents must be handled with care
Great for terpene extraction Relatively complex

The Io extractor

Over on the butane side of the extractor world is the Io extractor, a fully automated system capable of extracting 18lbs of plant material per hour. Priding itself on its novel data logging suite, Luna Technologies’ product constantly reviews the temperatures and pressures of each run, logging and refining its process with each cycle.

The Io extractor. Credit: Luna Technologies.

The price: approximately $225,000

Pros Cons
Computer controls can help refine extraction recipes for maximum yield and efficiency Low processing capacity (18lbs)
Automation-ready The dangers associated with butane oil
Simple to use Butane must be removed post-processing

Ablaze Mini Closed Loop Extractor

And here it is, what might be the cheapest butane extractor on the market: Ablaze’s Mini Closed Loop Extractor. With a 45g capacity and a 100psi limit, this processing product might only be capable of the most humdrum extractions, but for those interested in a saving, this is one of the best deals out there.

ABLAZE Mini Closed Loop Extractor. Credit: Ablaze.

The price: $510

Pros Cons
Low price point Not as simple as at-home alcohol extractors
Suitable for home-use Very low production capacity
Easy to use Vaccum pump and recovery tank also required

Ice Water Extraction

More ‘back-to-basics’ than other extraction methods, ice water extraction isn’t a step too far from giving the cannabis plant a cold bath. Because THC is denser than water, the compound can separate from the leaf material when washed. After this, the cannabinoid-rich water only needs to be filtered through a series of micron bags before it’s ready to be used.


Eberbach Model E5703

Working to create a safe and easy method for cannabis extraction, collaborators at Mountain High Suckers and Eberbach have developed a commercial platform that enables ice-water extraction, which eliminates any concern of residual chemicals in extracts. Plus, putting cannabis material in ice water and then filtering it is an extremely safe process. Currently available on their website, the Model E5703 can process over 1lb of plant material per hour and has been designed to comply with existing FDA standards. They are yet to release detailed information on the results of their experimentation, but the technique holds promise for small scale extraction and could potentially be scaled up to process more material.

The Eberbach Model E5703. Credit: Eberbach.

The price: approximately $10,000

Pros Cons
Does not require harmful solvents Methodology still in development
Very easy to use Scalability unknown
No dangerous chemicals or equipment required No public data available to prove efficacy
Cheap to run Ice water extraction is non-specific
Suitable for small scale operations Water-based extraction can be slow

Funding cannabis extraction equipment

Getting real equipment takes some investment in a business and can be a huge barrier to start-ups with some setups costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. To help overcome these hurdles, companies such as Trust Capital have been set up to offer financing for cannabis equipment. If a manufacturer wants to make a professional extract, professional equipment must be used. Another approach is to borrow or lease the extraction equipment your business requires, enabling you to get off the ground without making any large capital investments and potentially explore various production methods whilst you are developing your ideas. For example, Apeks, a manufacturer of CO2 extraction systems, offer their equipment on lease for anything from a week right up to two years. They even throw in free servicing and in-depth training on the system.

As this industry grows, so will the equipment options for extraction. These advances will probably go across the kinds of extraction processes, and the connection between extraction and analytical testing could also see improvement. Even with the best equipment, though, only skilled operators can produce the intended results. So, training operators as needed should always be performed in any company to guarantee results.

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A Guide to Cannabis Extraction Equipment and Machines Before any CBD oil, THC tincture, weed butter or cannabis concentrate can be bought, first, it must be extracted. This is the job of cannabis