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The CO2 Extraction Method- A Look at The Process

The CO2 Extraction Method- A Look at The Process


After the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, you may have noted a spike in people’s interest in extracting CBD from hemp plants. Consumers want a safe product that has no contaminants of the solvent used in CBD oil extraction. This describes why every manufacturer is turning to the CO2 extraction method. Cannabis is available in so many forms, including edibles, flowers, and oil extracts. The supercritical Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extraction method is commonly used to separate different components of hemp plants. This method is known to produce pure, clean, and very safe end-products.

At a pressure of 1071 psi and a temperature of 31.1 degrees Celsius, CO2 will reach a supercritical state. Once a molecule gets into the supercritical state, it possesses both liquid and gas properties. This proves to be beneficial because CO2 reaches small spaces as a gas but can also easily dissolve as a liquid solvent. Because supercritical CO2’s physical properties can be easily changed, it easily bonds to whichever molecule the manufacturer chooses.

What is Hemp Extract?

Hemp plants are closely related to cannabis plants since they are from the same plant species. To easily spot the difference, cannabis has high THC levels while hemp has high CBD levels. THC gets you high, while CBD has no properties to get you high. A hemp extract simply concentrates every component in the hemp plant’s flowers, leaves, and stems. The extract has cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids, flavonoids, and essential nutrients and vitamins. Hemp liquid extract can as well be refined so that it has only specific compounds from this plant.

What is the CO2 Extraction Process?

CO2 extraction is the process that uses carbon dioxide under pressure to pull the desired phytochemicals from plants. In our scenario, the process will pull essential cannabinoids, waxes, and terpene oils from the plant material. This simply means that CO2 is used as the solvent in the extraction process. Most manufacturers like the method since it gives a clean and safe end-product.

Explaining CO2 Supercritical Extraction Method

We all agree that there are other CBD oil extraction methods. However, the supercritical CO2 extraction method proves to be the best and is the industry’s gold standard for making top-notch CBD products. Supercritical simply refers to how CO2 acts as a gas and a liquid at certain temperatures and pressure. Let us now explain how the CO2 supercritical extraction method works.

This is a scientifically advanced but very fascinating process that involves three chambers. In the 1st chamber, CO2 (under normal circumstances) will be converted into a liquid state in its gaseous state. This is achieved by increasing the pressure and decreasing the temperature to -70 degrees Fahrenheit in the chamber. Next, the pressure and temperature gradually increase until the liquid CO2 gets to the ‘supercritical’ state. At this juncture, CO2 is between the liquid and gaseous state, retaining some properties of each. It will expand like gas but remains more concentrated as a liquid. At this optimal state, CO2 will be pumped into the 2nd chamber.

The second chamber holds hemp plant material. Once CO2 passes through this hemp, it separates the oil (very rich in cannabinoids and some other beneficial compounds) from the hemp plant material. This oil along with CO2 then make their way into the 3rd chamber which is the final chamber.

In this third chamber, these two separate with the residue CO2 simply evaporating. What you will be left with will be a very concentrated CBD oil extract. Some companies use the subcritical CO2 extraction method, which is not as common as the supercritical method. Though they are more or less the same, the subcritical process relies on low pressures and temperatures. It is also expensive and will only produce less material.


Benefits of CO2 Extraction Method

One of the main benefits of having your hemp extract through the CO2 extraction method is CO2’s status as a ‘green solvent.’ For any CBD product, using CO2 will leave a clean and healthy product. As opposed to solvents such as hexane and butane, CO2 extraction has no chemical residues or solvents. Better still, it is recyclable and better for the planet in the long run.

Another benefit of CO2 extraction is that running supercritical liquid CO2 through hemp plant material will kill insect mites, mold, and microbial bacteria on the plant. This process is an assurance that the concentrates will be clean and healthy for consumption. Besides having the terpenes aroma preserved for a better-tasting CBD oil, this extraction process is also easily customizable.

CO2 Extraction Method Equipment

We are aware that most readers will not be buying their CO2 extraction equipment. All the same, the information about the equipment and the extraction process is very interesting. If you did not know, CO2 extraction equipment that can produce high quantities of the product would cost you many dollars. In this regard, only lab technicians will be buying and using these machines. However, this should not be a worry to you since you can still make non-toxic, quality, and CO2-extracted cannabis from home. The good thing about it is that you require basic and readily available materials like dry ice and natural cannabis.

Why Use Supercritical CO2 in Cannabis Extraction?

By now, we believe that you know what supercritical CO2 is. In its supercritical state, CO2 has a density similar to that of a liquid and viscosity of a gas. The supercritical CO2 fluid will remove the essential oils from the cannabis plant without any residue left behind. The method is cleaner and much greener than other solvents. In this regard, it becomes safe both for the planet and the consumer as well. This is the main reason why cannabis extractors who are socially conscious prefer this method.

Is the CO2 Extraction Method Safe?

CO2 isn’t an explosive or volatile solvent. To be precise, CO2 is the primary component of fire extinguishers. The only safety equipment that operators require will be the CO2 monitor if there is a leakage. All the same, there will be no safety equipment that will be required in CO2 labs. This is not the case for other extraction methods. Generally, the CO2 extraction method is safe both for the operator and the consumer.

The Bottom Line

The supercritical CO2 extraction method has been widely used in the CBD industry. CBD products that have been made using this method will have full-spectrum terpenes and cannabinoids. This consequently means that the user will enjoy amplified health benefits. The main takeaway for cannabis consumers is that this method gives them much safer and more appealing products. When talking about safety, this method has less toxicity, and products are more aromatic than butane’s hash oil products. Whenever you buy CBD products, it is highly advisable to settle for those who use this extraction method.

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