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Optimizing Fractionation and Winterization: Enhancing Efficiency and Quality in Cannabis Supercritical Extraction

Extraction plays a crucial role in obtaining chemical compounds from cannabis plant material. One essential step in the extraction process is dewaxing, which aims to remove waxy substances from cannabis to enhance the purity and quality of the extract. While ethanol winterization has traditionally been used for dewaxing, alternative dewaxing techniques can be employed in supercritical distillation.

Supercritical Distillation Technique

CBD Oil CO2 Extraction Machine

Supercritical distillation harnesses the properties of supercritical fluids, which exhibit characteristics of both liquids and gases when placed under high pressure and temperature. In cannabis extraction, carbon dioxide (CO2) is commonly used as the supercritical fluid. The following are the steps involved in dewaxing as an alternative to ethanol winterization in supercritical distillation:

  1. Preparation of Supercritical CO2 Extraction Equipment: Specialized equipment designed for supercritical CO2 extraction is utilized. This equipment typically consists of a high-pressure vessel and a separation system.
  2. Loading Cannabis Material into the Extractor: Ground cannabis material is placed inside the supercritical CO2 extractor.
  3. Introduction of Supercritical CO2: The high-pressure vessel is sealed, and supercritical CO2 is introduced. By adjusting the temperature and pressure, CO2 reaches a supercritical state.
  4. Supercritical Extraction: Supercritical CO2 permeates the cannabis material, dissolving its chemical components. In this process, supercritical CO2 acts as a solvent to extract the target compounds from cannabis.
  5. Fractionation: The supercritical CO2 containing the extract is transferred to the separation system. By varying the temperature and pressure, separation of the target compounds and other components is achieved.
  6. Dewaxing: During the fractionation process, wax substances present in cannabis can effectively be removed by adjusting temperature and pressure. The unique properties of supercritical CO2 allow it to dissolve waxes and then separate them with temperature and pressure changes.
  7. Collection of Extract: The dewaxed extract is collected and further undergoes processing and purification steps.

Comparison with Ethanol Winterization

Benefits of Supercritical Dewaxing over Ethanol Winterization

Process design of supercritical CO2 fractionation column
Process design of supercritical CO2 fractionation column

Ethanol winterization is a low-temperature process that removes undesired plant materials, particularly waxes, from the extract. Until recently, most CO2 extraction equipment manufacturers considered using the same CO2 for online antifreeze as impractical. However, some claim to have successfully achieved similar goals. Nevertheless, operators using other systems can only resort to ethanol winterization, a complex multi-step process that is expensive and imprecise. This method results in compound losses at each stage and requires large-scale facility expansion, capital investment, and compliance with regulations. This increases the cycle days for extracting biomass in laboratory-scale production throughput.

co2 winterization equipment
co2 winterization equipment

In highly optimized operations, the cost to support ethanol winterization processes amounts to $0.62 per gram of finished oil. It may not sound significant until you start tracking this cost over a year: a difference of up to $177,960 compared to the $0.015 per gram cost for real-time antifreeze.

However, the inefficiency of ethanol winterization doesn’t end there. Let’s examine the chart below, which illustrates the opportunities presented by supercritical distillation dewaxing and chlorophyll. By employing supercritical distillation techniques, you can retain nearly all of the inevitable 8% product losses and avoid the losses associated with ethanol winterization.

Please note that the above content is based on some potentially existing arguments and data but may not be entirely accurate or universally applicable. The effectivenessof supercritical distillation techniques and extraction methods like ethanol winterization may vary in practice and depend on various factors. It is advisable to carefully assess and validate the suitability and effectiveness of the techniques used in any practical operation.

Real-Time Winterization

Real-time winterization refers to a winterization method employed in supercritical distillation that removes waxes from cannabis extracts by dynamically adjusting temperature and pressure. This approach avoids the multiple stages and losses associated with traditional ethanol winterization, thereby improving the efficiency and precision of dewaxing.

RTW (Real-Time Winterization) Module

The RTW module is a technology used in supercritical distillation equipment to achieve real-time winterization. With this module, operators can adjust temperature and pressure instantly based on the characteristics and requirements of the extract, enabling an efficient dewaxing process. This real-time adjustment minimizes the presence of wax substances, thereby enhancing the purity and quality of the extract.

Additional Revenue from Real-Time Winterization: Unlocking Economic Benefits through Efficient Dewaxing

The additional revenue gained from implementing this efficient dewaxing method helps recover the costs of purchasing supercritical distillation equipment with the real-time winterization module. By retaining more target compounds, increasing product yield, and reducing waste and losses, this approach offers economic benefits.

Increased Production Throughput with Reduced Downtime: Maximizing Production Efficiency

Under identical conditions, systems with less downtime provide higher production throughput. Assuming a daily production of approximately 25 pounds of biomass converted into refined extract and an 80% operational uptime, systems with less downtime can achieve longer continuous production, resulting in higher production volumes compared to systems with extended downtime.

Advancing Cannabis Extraction with Supercritical Dewaxing

small co2 extraction machine for sale

In summary, the application of real-time winterization techniques and the utilization of the RTW module in supercritical distillation enhance the efficiency, purity, and yield of the cannabis extraction process while reducing waste and losses. These technologies contribute to the sustainable development and operational benefits of the cannabis extraction industry.