There are hundreds of different natural terpenes found all around us, and each one of them is unique in their ways. For instance, humulene is responsible for the earthy, spicy, and woody notes commonly found on black pepper, hops, and ginseng. Meanwhile, studies show that caryophyllene has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may aid in inflammatory bowel disease.
But aside from terpenes’ wide variety of characteristics and applications, the different ways that they’re manufactured aren’t created equal. A key variable that can affect its quality is the method used for extraction.
Today, the industry is evolving as it operates in different ways to collect more potent compounds. One of the popular techniques for terpenes in the market is hydrocarbon extraction.
What is Hydrocarbon Extraction?
Hydrocarbon extraction is used to draw out cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and terpenes from a plant. This technique involves hydrocarbons like propane and butane to act as solvents, extracting the desired chemical compounds when combined with plant material.
In terpene extraction, it is more common to find equipment that relies on both butane and propane. This blend creates a gas mixture set to dissolve additional terpenes and purge more efficiently than butane alone, considering propane has a low boiling point.
Once done, the extract will undergo another round of purging to eliminate any residual solvent. This step varies per byproduct, but it may include drying or whipping.
The terpenes are present at this time with other cannabinoids, and can be further refined. For example, the solution may then be filtered depending on the final product. The refinement method is often centrifugation, dewaxing, or winterization, which removes fats and lipids from the concentrate.
The Pros and Cons of Hydrocarbon Extraction
To know more about hydrocarbon terpene extraction, here are its major benefits and drawbacks to keep in mind:
Hydrocarbon Extraction Pros
- It is less expensive.
Opting for the hydrocarbon extraction route can save more on operating costs than other extraction methods from a business perspective. Compared to the carbon dioxide (CO2) method, equipment for the hydrocarbon technique is less expensive. This relatively lower upfront expense can help boost company savings, especially for startups.
- It increases extraction rates.
With hydrocarbon extraction tools in place, production is now maintained at a steady pace. These fully automated solutions can result in higher throughput than the CO2 approach and ultimately lead to minimal post-processing, which means getting more terpenes on hand.
- It can preserve the potency of the strain.
Some extraction methods cannot recognize the unique chemical composition of each strain. The hydrocarbon way, on the other hand, can successfully render these profiles. It can maintain the authenticity of the plant and preserve the original combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes even in the final product.
- It provides versatility.
Since hydrocarbon extraction can produce an array of extract types, there is no single formula to run it. Its process can be modified accordingly to achieve the desired product concentration, which welcomes brand new approaches to extracting terpenes. Unlike the other methods, hydrocarbon extraction can create a variety of end products such as distillates, live resin, diamonds, shatter, and wax, to name a few.
- It can work on trimmings.
Trimmings from plant harvests are usually seen as waste. However, loose leaves still carry compounds that are rich in terpenes. Hydrocarbon extraction can utilize those excess parts of the plant and extract effective solutions, more commonly known as trim runs.
Hydrocarbon Extraction Cons
- Its process can pose risks.
Hydrocarbon extraction can be dangerous if not done correctly. The technique involves the use of butane and propane, which are both highly flammable. That increases the risk of explosions and fires in the operations. With this, standards need to be set to manage the equipment and environment properly and safely.
- It can create hazardous products.
In any case, if a process is not executed properly, its byproduct will likely be undesired. For hydrocarbon extractions, if done amiss, the consumer could be at risk. Non-professional extractions may use low-quality solvents with unknown contaminants and fail to purge residual toxic solvents in the final product, which could have harmful effects when ingested.
- Its facility needs to be strictly regulated.
Operating with hydrocarbons is strictly regulated by authorities. Facilities need a permit to bring in any significant volume of propane or butane for each process. Such limits can make it challenging to scale up terpene extraction legally.
Finding the Exact Terpene Extraction Method
The verdict? Hydrocarbon extraction is popular in the industry for good reasons. It is a sound choice when collecting terpenes, as it can extract concentrated solutions and purge toxins with great precision if executed correctly.
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