Choosing the Best Butane Extraction Equipment
If you’re reading this article we’re assuming there is a pretty good chance you are at the beginning phase of planning and starting your cannabis extraction business. First, congratulations and welcome!
Amongst the many to-dos on your list is choosing the best butane extraction equipment, if you’re going to use light hydrocarbon solvents to make your concentrates. There is much to consider beyond the choice of a primary butane extractor, because you’re building a system – not just a unit – in order to process your cannabis.
In this article, we will address each piece of equipment required to make the best butane extraction system for an entry-level processing facility. We will pay particular attention to the features of the primary butane extraction unit. We will also outline ancillary equipment, including pumps, vacuum ovens, chillers, and heaters. This ancillary equipment will be required in order to make a broad range of popular concentrates. Lastly, we will discuss the C1D1 extraction room you will need in order to perform extraction, as well as some food for thought on post-sale training and support.
Table of Contents
- Primary Extraction
- Temperature Control Units
- Recovery Pumps
- Vacuum Pumps
- Vacuum Ovens
- C1D1 Extraction Rooms
There is some great entry-level butane extraction equipment on the market for cannabis extraction start-ups. It is possible to limit your initial investment in primary extraction but still process a large amount of biomass in an 8-hour shift.
We recommend looking for the following features when shopping butane primary extraction equipment.
Can Use Blended Solvents
By blended, we mean butane and propane. We know that typically the best results will be achieved by using a light hydrocarbon solvent blend for marijuana concentrates.
Quick Cycle Times
From start to finish, an entry-level extractor capable of 3-5 lb of biomass per hour should provide around 30-45 minute cycle times. Cycle time is calculated as the total time from loading the material to pouring out the finished product. Extractors with larger capacities above 5 lb per hour will inevitably have longer cycle times.
This would be how long it takes to recover the solvent in the final stage of the process. Recovery times can be improved with the use of a recovery pump or compressor – which we will discuss later in the article. 20-30 minutes would be a respectful length of time for solvent recovery. Again, longer times can be expected if you’re using a system with higher capacity rates above 5 lb of biomass.
Everything on the primary butane extractor should have the ability to be temperature controlled. This allows you to create all of your sauces and live resin concentrate products. Having the ability to process at -60 °C is going to allow you to create a larger range of finished goods at a much higher quality.
Removable Material Columns
Having extra, pre-loaded columns with fresh, or dried, cannabis allows you to hot-swap your material columns between runs and keeps production going. You don’t want to have to unload, clean and re-pack a column during your production shifts. Tip – buy enough columns for an entire shift and clean them during off-hours.
Inline Dewax Optional
Having the option to use, or bypass, an inline dewaxing column is very convenient. Some people choose to do an inline dewax when creating high-terpene extracts like live resin, shatter and sauces. Having a unit that gives you the option to bypass dewax is certainly a nice-to-have if you’re trying to decrease your cycle times.
All solvent vessels at a minimum should be jacketed for proper temperature control. This allows for precise control of your extraction process resulting in a higher quality extract.
Crude Oil Collection
You want to make sure you have the option of a pour spout and a removable collection bowl for the collection of your crude oil. You may want to use a certain collection technique depending on the type of concentrate you’re creating in order to limit agitation of the oil.
An expansion column allows you to re-collect any water in the system which will inevitably happen if you are running fresh (“wet”) biomass for live resin. You want to eliminate any residual water in your closed loop system. Not doing so could freeze up your lines or extract undesirables that are water soluble from the plant.
Your primary butane extractor will be subject to inspection and review by your local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). To ensure you have a trouble-free experience and protect the safety and health of your team, you should look for the following from your butane extraction manufacturer.
- ASME stamped vessels
- Engineer peer reviewed
- Pressure test report
- Build report
The compliances, rules and regulations are quickly evolving and can vary slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Make sure you are familiar with the terminology and application of these regulations in your specific area to avoid lost time and money.
Hydrocarbon Distillation Units
A Hydrocarbon Distillation Unit or HDU is positioned between the source solvent tank and the extractor to distill solvent before it enters the extractor. This revolutionary new equipment distills solvent before it’s run through a hydrocarbon extractor, minimizing contamination of the extractor. Continuously refilling and distilling butane translates to saving time and increasing efficiency. Learn more about the HDU here.
Temperature Control Units
Temperature Control Units (TCU) encompasses your heaters and chillers, and for our purposes of this article we’re referring to their use with your primary butane extraction equipment. TCUs can also be used in other post processing steps that we won’t discuss here.
A chiller is used to chill the solvent to an ultra-low temperature prior to primary extraction. To date, there are two main manufacturers of TCUs in the cannabis extraction market – Huber and Julabo. Either unit will perform the function required, only at different price points.
A heater will be used for your collection vessel on your butane extraction system. It provides heat to allow for the solvent recovery portion of the extraction to happen. The temperature range is typically low, ranging from 90 °F-105 °F. Similar to chillers, there are two well-known manufacturers offering solutions at different price points.
Adding accessories to your primary butane extraction system can be fruitful to further optimizing your efficiency and throughput in order to scale. Recovery pumps for active solvent recovery help push the limits of your extraction production by getting faster solvent recovery rates. If you also want to run a little bit colder, having a best-in-class pump and condensing coil to re-condense those vapors during solvent recovery will allow you to operate at a wider temperature range enabling you to diversify your finished product portfolio.
We should mention that you could choose to run a passive solvent recovery on your butane extraction system (without a recovery pump), but the cycle time will be a little bit slower typically on these entry-level extractors.
Pump for Butane Extraction
A pump pulls a vacuum on the primary extraction system prior to extraction in order to eliminate the atmosphere in the system. This is a requirement for safety and to assist in the transferring of solvent through the system.
Pump for Vacuum Oven
Once you’ve completed the primary extraction of your biomass, you will enter post processing. One of the key pieces of equipment in butane post processing will be a vacuum oven, which also requires a pump. Why do we even need a vacuum oven? The crude oil you extracted still retains a small amount of solvent and you want to purge that solvent out of your product. By pulling a vacuum on the oven and reducing the atmosphere, you are reducing the temperature point at which compounds boil, in our case the boiling point of residual solvent in your crude oil.
If you have ever boiled water on a stove at different altitudes, you have basically seen the same science in action. The higher the altitude, i.e. lower the atmosphere, the lower the boiling point of water.
There are a lot of really good pumps on the market that can accomplish this job.
We recommend that no matter what finished good you are producing, you use a vacuum oven for the final purge of solvent from the oil. The vacuum oven also assists in creating the consistency of your finished products. Ovens come in a wide range of sizes and from several manufacturers, you should choose an oven depending on your production capacity.
C1D1 Extraction Room
In order to safely use butane extraction equipment and comply with your local building and fire safety codes, you are going to need a C1D1 compliant environment in which to perform primary hydrocarbon extraction. You have several C1D1 extraction lab solutions to choose from:
- Walk-in fume hoods
- Pre-fab extraction rooms/booths
- Outdoor extraction pods
- Custom designed and built extraction room
If you have a facility, the safest, quickest and most economical choice we would recommend is a pre-fab C1D1 extraction room, also commonly known as an extraction booth. These are easy to assemble, typically done in a day, and should be compliant with all of your local codes and regulations surrounding butane extraction. Choosing a decent sized room also offers you the flexibility of being able to swap out for larger equipment, or add additional systems, in the future should you scale. An outdoor extraction pod is also a great option if you are still building out your main facility or want to expand beyond your current physical footprint.
Look for a manufacturer that can provide on-site installation and comprehensive training to your team. You don’t want to be left wondering and guessing how to operate your extraction equipment when it’s time to start. You should also make sure your supplier can provide manuals, troubleshooting guides and continued access to technicians and support should you have a question or issue after the training is complete.
Any extraction business is going to go through A LOT of consumables, like material gaskets, nuts, bolts, fittings, and hoses. It is not uncommon for some of these items to be purchased every 4-8 weeks. That’s as much as 10-12 times a year! Make sure your supplier has those items in stock regularly so you don’t find your production line down waiting for parts.
Our advice to customers is to also make sure the supplier can grow with you. Do they make larger systems? Different systems? Can they consult and provide you with other ancillary equipment, like ovens, chillers, heaters, solvent evaporators or distillation – or do you have to source those elsewhere?
Your ultimate goal is going to be to grow, and that means expanding the variety and capacity of concentrates you produce. You will inevitably need more, or different, equipment. Having a partner that is a systems integration expert, rather than just an equipment supplier, provides you with advice on the best choices for the right now and the future.
Buy Everything in One Place!
Precision Extraction is an end-to-end solutions provider, with the equipment and knowledge you need to outfit your lab. In addition to simplifying the shopping process, our reps and technicians can design a solution to help you meet your operational goals. Schedule your free consultation today!