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Following the 2018 hemp bill, the US saw at least 80,000 acres of licensed industrial hemp grown in nearly 23 states. The same year saw at least 3,500 state licenses being issued. Such is the growth rate being experienced in the hemp industry.

There are many businesses that you can set up in the hemp industry. You can start a CBD dispensary, a CBD blog, or even an extraction facility. If planning to set up an extraction facility, then this post has been made specifically for you, since in it, you will learn how to select the processing method as well as the cannabis extraction machines.

Start By selecting the Processing Method

Unlike in most other businesses where you start by choosing the property, obtaining a building, and then designing the systems and equipment to outfit the facility, in hemp extraction, you start by selecting the processing method, then look for property/building that will outfit the processing method.

Why?

Different hemp extraction processes will require different provisions that must be considered at the planning stage.

In addition, most of the extraction methods will involve the use of harmful/hazardous materials. Depending on the extraction method in question, you will know which building code to use to ensure the safety of your equipment and workers.

Hemp Extraction Methods

As already mentioned, the design of your extraction facility will depend on your chosen extraction method.

There are three main hemp extraction methods; ethanol, CO2, and hydrocarbon extraction.

Although still in use, hydrocarbon extraction is not as popular as CO2 and ethanol extraction, and so in this post, we will mainly talk about CO2 and ethanol.

Ethanol Extraction Method

Ethanol is the most popular and preferred hemp extraction method. It involves the use of alcohol (solvent) to extract cannabinoids (e.g., CBD) from the hemp plant.

One of the reasons why ethanol is becoming a popular extraction solvent is that it’s cheaper to set up and is less energy-intensive as compared to CO2.

Ethanol is also safe for human consumption.

However, ethanol is highly flammable, and if not properly handled may lead to fire accidents. For this reason, you must consider its flammable nature during ventilation and electrical systems design.

CO2 Extraction Method

In this method, CO2 acts as the solvent and pulls cannabinoids from the hemp plant. 

Unlike ethanol, CO2 is not flammable. CO2 extraction is considered purer than other common extraction methods. This is because there is no solvent residue left after the process.

However, CO2 requires more sophisticated equipment and skilled manpower as compared to ethanol extraction. As a result, the process tends to be more expensive and more energy-intensive. It is no wonder that most hemp extraction firms lean towards ethanol rather than CO2.

Which Is The Best Extraction Method; CO2 or Ethanol?

Well, we cannot really say that method A is better than method B, because, as you have seen, both have their pros and cons. So the choice for extraction method will come down to your preference, space availability, skilled workforce as well as affordability.

Factors To Consider When Selecting Your Extraction Machine

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To choose the best cannabis extraction equipment, the following considerations should come in handy:

What Can You Afford?

When it comes to affordability, you should consider both equipment and overall construction costs. 

For instance, the initial cost for an ethanol extraction plant may be cheaper. However, these costs are likely to increase when you start considering safety measures, e.g., to avoid fire accidents.

On the other hand, the CO2 extraction plant may require a huge initial set-up cost, which you may not afford.

To make the right decisions, speak with experts and equipment suppliers to understand how much you will be paying in the long-run.

You should also consult your engineers and architects so that you can know the design challenges in each extraction process.

Scalability

Unlike other extraction solvents, ethanol boasts more lenient storage limits. This means that you can obtain more yields using ethanol as compared to the other extraction techniques. It is for this reason that large extraction firms lean towards using ethanol instead of CO2.

Best Practices for Extraction Laboratory Safety

Regardless of your extraction method, ensuring laboratory safety is critical. Reports of burned-down hemp extraction plants, poor-quality hemp products and harmful or toxic byproducts in hemp extracts are not new. 

You must, therefore, come up with measures to ensure that both your workers and equipment are safe. The following safety precautions should be put into consideration:

Staff Safety

In a hemp extraction plant, workers should be protected from hazardous cannabis materials and extraction solvent.

Solvents such as butane are highly explosive and should be avoided at all costs. Although CO2 may not be as dangerous, it can displace a lab’s breathable oxygen. Its level should, therefore, be maintained at below 3,000 ppm.

Ensure that your workers have safety goggles, overalls, and particle masks.

Instruments Protection

Instruments need to be maintained at healthy working conditions not only for enhanced productivity but also for the safety of its operators and production of quality, safe oils.

The machines should only be operated by skilled personnel, and the manufacturers manual should be used at all times.

Focus on connections, seals, valves, and any other wearable parts. 

Quality Control On Hemp

Remember that extraction equipment will extract all the compounds in the hemp plant. Some of these compounds may include unwanted elements such as pesticides.

To avoid this, conduct regular quality control inspections on your hemp.

Also, ensure that the hemp has been stored in the right storage conditions to avoid terpene loss, cannabinoid degradation, and mold growth.

Wrapping Up

As you have seen, coming up with a hemp extraction facility or choosing the best extraction equipment is a complex process that requires critical thinking and understanding of the extraction process.

Always engage the services of an experienced building team to ensure any limitations are identified early in the planning stage.

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