Establishing Safety and Efficiency in the Essential Oil Extraction Process

cannabis oil extraction crop

The rapid growth of the essential oil industry has increased demand for essential oils. For those looking to leverage growth opportunities in the essentail oil extraction business, it is critical to understand not only the basics of the extraction process, but also the safeguards and equipment needed to create an optimal operational workflow and a quality end product. The following examines the key operational considerations that owners of essential oil extraction businesses should take into account when structuring their operations.

Comparing Common Essential Oil Extraction Processes

Two of the most widely used essential oil extraction processes are Butane Hash Oil (BHO) which uses butane as a solvent for production, and the supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) method which produces a more pure essential oils. The form of extraction you choose depends on a number of factors, including how you intend to market your essential oil product. Here is a quick comparison of these two primary extraction methods: 

Butane extraction

  • Results in oil that has relatively high Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Oil derived through this method may have THC concentrations upwards of 80 percent, which is ideal for many medical purposes.
  • Traces of butane and other impurities may be present in the finished product, which may make it dangerous and reduce the ability to sell it.
  • BHO is highly flammable, which may present a safety risk to those working or living in close proximity to an extraction facility using this method.

Supercritical CO2 extraction

  • Uses naturally occurring carbon dioxide to create an end product that is more pure, ideal for products requiring a natural oils.
  • Is free of chemical solvents and minimizes the thermal degradation of plant materials and extracted oils.
  • The COextraction process is also GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) by the FDA.

Addressing the Issue of Safety in Extraction Operations

As the essnetial oil market expands, it is likely that regulation of the industry from all levels of government will, too. Improper processing and handling during essential oil extraction can lead to various risks:

  • Fire is an immediate risk in extraction operations, especially for those producing BHO because of the potential for combustion of butane by the pumps used.
  • Contamination of the essential oil products leads to health risks for consumers and reduces likelihood of sales.

Recognizing these risks, local, state, and federal law makers and their health and safety counterparts are rapidly assessing what regulations need to be put into place. The City of Denver was the first U.S. city to establish an extraction certification process required for securing a permit to extract essential oils. To manage the certification, they assembled a team of engineers who perform inspections under the supervision of the Denver Fire Department. According to The National Fire Protection Association, while states like Colorado and Oregon are leading the way in developing regulations to safeguard essential oil extraction facilities and the public, other states are not far behind in developing their own health and safety protocols and laws.

As such, all essential oil extraction businesses should be aware of the current regulatory environment in their local market as well as what they need to do to remain in compliance with evolving state and federal laws.

Choosing the Right Equipment and Support for Your Essential Oil Extraction System

Key factors in both the efficiency and safety of essential oil extraction operations are the methods and equipment used to extract cannabis products. While certain aspects are determined by the chosen method, butane vs. CO2, the pumps used in the system are an equally important aspect of any cannabis extraction operation.

Like the essential oil industry’s regulatory environment, the equipment used in the essential oil extraction process has also evolved. When the industry was in its infancy, many private manufacturers were experimenting with BHO extraction because electric pumps presented too great a risk of gas ignition. These operators often modified existing pumps to meet their needs, a risky strategy.

Recognizing this, Haskel, a leading producer of pumps for other industries, worked with essential oil extraction operators and system engineers to develop a pump designed specifically for this application.

Within the CO2 extraction market, Haskel’s gas boosters and liquid pumps are uniquely designed for the essential oil industry. Haskel’s liquid pumps offer modifications ideal for liquid CO2, unlike any similar products currently on the market. In addition to the equipment itself, essential oil extraction facility operators often need consultative engineering expertise. Haskel offers personalized, technical engineering support and a 24-hour response guarantee to help extraction system builders choose the precise product needed for the unique flow and pressure in the process design.

Today, Haskel produces the leading pumps for both butane (BHO) and CO2 extraction of essential oils. Haskel has worked with engineers and manufacturers since the industry was in its early stages to create pumps that meet safety certification requirements and superior extraction rates, such as the EXT-420 and EXT-420-2. To date, Haskel's EXT-420 remains one of the only pumps that has been tested and approved within a Class 1/Division 1 room.

For more tips on safety in the essential oil extraction process, download our free tip sheet.

The Haskel team has extensive knowledge of best practices related to the industry and the design of cannabis extraction pumps and overall system requirements. For more information, contact one of our representatives.

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