As the demand for cannabis concentrates rises in the United States, the importance of efficient THC extraction is becoming clear. It takes a combination of skill, knowledge, and equipment to perform hydrocarbon extraction processes on cannabis. As labs work to perfect their methods and make pure products, hydrocarbon extraction is proving itself to be the industry standard.
Benefits of Hydrocarbon Extraction
Most labs that make cannabis concentrates choose hydrocarbons as their solvents because these options produce the best results. Even before THC extraction became common, labs realized the benefits of these gasses. The food industry has already been using hydrocarbons for over five decades with excellent results. Labs pursue hydrocarbon extraction because of its safety, efficiency, low cost, and quality yields.
Most importantly, hydrocarbon extraction is considered to be extremely safe. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized both propane and butane as appropriate ingredients. When it comes to producing something that will be ingested, this is a critical consideration.
In addition to yielding products that are safe for human consumption, the very process of hydrocarbon extraction is very safe relative to other processes. Butane and propane both enable extraction processes at relatively low pressures, which reduces the risk for lab employees. To safeguard employees in the lab, trained professionals should be using appropriate processes and equipment.
Quality Cannabis Concentrates
Hydrocarbon extraction with butane or propane yields products with a superior taste and scent. The process is able to isolate terpenes and flavonoids along with the cannabinoids. At the same time, less desirable organic compounds like chlorophyll are kept out of the finished product to improve flavor. Since the process can occur at relatively low temperatures, there’s less risk that terpenes will be burnt off during extraction. This all leads to cannabis concentrates that offer an excellent representation of consumers’ favorite qualities from the original plant material.
Low-Cost THC Extraction
As labs use propane extraction and butane extraction to make superior concentrates, they’re also reducing their own costs. Hydrocarbons like butane and propane can enable larger yields from each cannabis extraction, so labs spend less on plant material. Cycle times are also faster with propane and butane than they are with CO2, so the process is faster and more efficient. These gasses are valuable to anyone wondering how to increase production in a cannabis extraction lab.
Options for Hydrocarbon Extraction
This method lends itself to greater flexibility. Some extraction processes rely on pure butane to make BHOs or pure propane to make PHOs, but it’s also possible to use both. Many concentrates are produced with some ratio of butane to propane, and the specific type of hydrocarbons used will have an impact on the finished product. Slight changes to the process itself will also affect the final form of a cannabis concentrate.
The Hydrocarbon Extraction Process
Before starting the process, it’s important to source the best plant material possible. Extraction is all about collecting cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. A process will yield higher levels of all three when there are more present in the original material to begin with. If a lab must keep plant material on-site for any significant amount of time before extracting the THC, it’s necessary to limit its exposure to heat, oxygen, and light.
Step 1: Wash
Once the material has been loaded for extraction, hydrocarbons are released to begin the extraction. Propane, butane, or both move over the cannabis to dissolve cannabinoids, which join the solvent. The solvent solution with cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids is ready to be processed.
Step 2: Refine
There are multiple ways to refine the solution from an initial extraction. Many closed-loop systems for hydrocarbon extraction also include an in-line de-waxing column. This process occurs at temperatures around -22°F and works similarly to winterization. Unlike winterization, though, in-line de-waxing does not require the introduction of a second solvent. Instead, refining the cannabis solution in this way relies on the ability to pass desirable elements through while trapping unwanted components from the raw plant material.
In-line dewaxing takes some time, but it ultimately leads to a superior product. Winterization is still an option, but it relies on ethanol or another polar solvent to remove undesirable lipids and organic compounds from the concentrate solution. Adding a solvent like ethanol removes unwanted lipids and waxes extremely efficiently, but it may also damage the terpenes in cannabis concentrates. In-line dewaxing is widely considered to be the best method for producing a product with a more desirable flavor.
Step 3: Collect
Once the solution has been adequately refined, it’s ready to be collected. It enters the collection pot, then heat forces butane back into the solvent tank. Even in closed-loop extraction systems, there will still be some small amount of butane or propane left in the solution. Once most of the hydrocarbons have been removed from the cannabis extract, the solution can be collected for the final separation process.
Step 4: Purge
There shouldn’t be a lot of butane or propane left in the solution at this point, but it’s still important to get it out. At this stage, a lab can proceed in a number of different ways depending on what specific type of cannabis concentrates are desired. For example, shatter is produced by spreading the solution into a very thin layer with lots of surface area. The layer is left inside of a vacuum for two days so all the hydrocarbons can be sucked out. Wax, on the other hand, is whipped to release any residual propane or butane.
Best Hydrocarbons for THC Extraction
To produce the best cannabis concentrates, it’s important to start with the right ingredients. Make the most of any plant material by performing hydrocarbon extraction with pure solvents. Many labs use different solvents, but most rely on either butane, propane, or a combination of the two. Both of these hydrocarbons offers some benefits.
Butane Hash Oil extraction has been popular for years because the resulting solution can be turned into a variety of concentrates. BHOs can come in the form of oil, shatter, wax, and similar cannabis concentrates. If a lab is expected to make these types of products, butane may be the best hydrocarbon.
Propane isn’t quite as flexible as butane because the end result will almost always be a soft wax, often referred to as budder. Even though PHO solutions aren’t as versatile, they’re still in high demand for other reasons:
- Taste – THC extraction with propane can occur at higher pressures, which means terpenes can be dissolved more quickly at lower temperatures.
- Cost – Propane isn’t as expensive as butane, so the expenses for the lab are reduced even when making the same amount of cannabis concentrates.
- Purging – Removing propane from a solution is slightly easier, so it’s easier to make the product safe and pure.
Where to Buy Hydrocarbons
Our team at AdChem is dedicated to distributing pure hydrocarbons to labs. Our gasses are 99.8% pure thanks to our advanced cleaning methods. With same-day distribution to labs in some of the Western United States and nationwide shipping, labs count on us to deliver propane and butane on time. Contact us today to learn more.