Hydrocarbon Extraction – Your Ultimate Guide & Top Facts to Know

Cannabis Extraction Using Hydrocarbons

Cannabis consumer preferences are slowly but surely shifting to potent concentrates. In fact, in 2021 the product category sales increased by 40% nationwide. Once seen as a ‘once in a while’ type of experience, industry advancements are now allowing consumers to more cost-effectively and conveniently consume the high-powered extractions. 

With a rise in popularity, extractors are now seeking out the best, most cost-effective methods to produce high-quality, top-shelf end-products. One of those being – hydrocarbon extraction. 

So, is the hydrocarbon extraction process the next best thing? And, what are some of the top things to know about the hydrocarbon extraction methods?

Let’s find out, with our ultimate guide to cannabis extraction using hydrocarbons. 

The Hydrocarbon Extraction Definition

Hydrocarbon extraction describes the art of extracting beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes from hemp or cannabis material, using a solvent composed of hydrogen and carbon. The most common solvents for hydrocarbon extraction are propane and butane, which strip the cannabinoid compounds from the plant material. Once they’re removed, other methods are implemented to make varying types and consistencies of cannabis extractions or concentrates. Including popular products like shatter, wax, budder, glass, hash, etc. 

The reason why this method is rising in popularity is the fact that the hydrocarbon extraction process is cost-effective and efficient for producing high-quality extracts. Plus, it provides the ideal conditions for two unique benefits for consumers –

  1. Its negative polarity (AKA, dissolving specific parts of the plants while preserving others) is ideal for reducing plant contaminants like chlorophyll that can affect taste and appearance. At the same time, increasing potency by capturing higher levels of beneficial plant compounds, like cannabinoids and terpenes.  
  2. Hydrocarbon’s low boiling points are easier to recover, reducing leftover solvent for safe use and a cleaner flavor. 

The Hydrocarbon Extraction Process – Step by Step 

Now that you know the hydrocarbon extraction definition, let’s take a deeper look at the hydrocarbon extraction process, step-by-step. 

  • Collect Quality Plant Material 

The quality of the final concentrate begins with the quality of your beginning material. Most extracts are made from the “trim” that comes from trimming the smokable flower, but sometimes buds or full plants are used. For high quality extracts, it’s important to properly care for the plant biomass to ensure a successful hydrocarbons extraction result. To do so, avoid exposure to UV rays, heat, and air, by storing the material in a dark, cool room and preferably in a vacuum sealed bag.

  • The Initial Extraction 

To begin the hydrocarbon extraction process, the first step includes flushing the cold solvent (butane or propane) through the tank, and into the material column. Essentially, ‘washing’ the plant material with the solvent. During this step, the hydrocarbons dissolve terpenes and cannabinoids from the plant material into the solvent. After the plant biomass is completely washed, the cannabinoid soaked solvent solution is ready for further processing. 

  • Post-refinement 

The refinement stage of the hydrocarbon extraction process is where the ‘magic happens’. Extractors use a variety of post-refinement techniques to curate the type of concentrate, oil or extract they wish to produce. This includes hydrocarbon extraction methods like de-waxing, winterization, and others, which we’ll review more in-depth, to follow. 

  • Collection of Concentrate 

Once the product is finished refining, hydrocarbon extraction systems recover the hydrocarbon solvent from the solution using either passive or active recovery methods. In passive recovery, heat is applied to remove residual solvents. Whereas active solvent recovery requires a gas compressor which aids in the transfer of gaseous phase solvents. By doing so, the solution returns to the initial cold solvent tank through the closed-loop system. Here, it can be collected for the final stage. 

  • Purging 

The purging of hydrocarbon cannabis concentrates can be done in a number of ways. And like the refinement stage, the type of method used ultimately depends on the type of concentrate or product being made. For instance, when making shatter the concentrate will get spread thinly and implement a vacuum method to purge final solvents. For wax, the concentrate might get agitated or whipped. 

One of the biggest benefits of utilizing hydrocarbon extraction systems is their versatility and variety of concentrate benefits they can produce. To better understand, let’s cover the unique refinement capabilities of hydrocarbon extraction equipment.


Hydrocarbon Cannabis Concentrates 101 

Today’s consumers are becoming more well educated around the cannabis products they consume. With the plethora of information available on the internet today, even the newest cannabis consumers know the differences between strains, the benefits of terpenes, and the in’s and out’s of varying extraction processes, too. 

As a result, an increasing number of consumers are seeking out highly potent, quality, intentionally crafted and terpene-packed products to suit their individual desires. With hydrocarbon extraction, processors have the advantage of a few unique benefits during the refinement phase that help hit the marks of consumers growing list of ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ – 

  • Terpene Separation: Hydrocarbon concentrates are sometimes refined to separate the cannabinoids from the terpenes for ‘terp sauces’, or other infusions. 
  • Winterization & Dewax: When winterizing extracts, plant lipids, waxes, and other undesirables are removed. Typically through freezing or other means of filtration. Winterization is a benefit that improves appearance, flavor, and taste. 
  • Decolorization & Carbon Scrubbing: Connoisseurs are seeking golden, pure and refined color when purchasing top-shelf concentrates. The hydrocarbon extraction process allows manufacturers to decolorize and “scrub” extracts using various media. This removes dark colors and undesirable components of a primary extract via various filtration media.
  • Decarboxylation & Co-Solvent Separation/Crystallization: As more and more consumers seek out minor cannabinoids like THCA, CBN, CBG, etc for their unique health and wellness effects – the more and more extractors are seeking to isolate those individual compounds. Hydrocarbon extraction systems support decarboxylation, or the removal of primary cannabinoids’ carbolic acid group (the A, after THC). And also support co-solvent separation and crystallization, that isolate one or more cannabinoids. 

With the high-quality end result, hydrocarbon extraction methods are also ideal for manufacturing more niche cannabis goods. Like capsules, and transdermal patches. And the oils can even be processed into highly potent edibles, and vape carts too. 

Last but not least, and as a key selling point – hydrocarbon extraction equipment also cuts down on cannabis waste, to boost environmentally friendly or sustainable brand campaigns. With so many brands to choose from on the market today, brand differentiation is key. And branding industry experts predict that environmentally friendly practices and sourcing of goods will continue to rise in popularity amongst consumer groups. 


Implementing Hydrocarbon Extraction Systems 

To become one of the most prestigious cannabis extraction companies and scale the market exponentially – it’s important to  implement effective and efficient hydrocarbon extraction equipment. Like, the collection from HH Extraction Solutions. 

Increase your market value by diversifying your products with hydrocarbon cannabis concentrates…or improve your current extraction systems for higher-quality concentrates, and increased efficiency. 

Browse our services for start-ups and established brands, and check our hydrocarbon extraction equipment. Contact HH Extraction Solutions today, to implement top of the line hydrocarbon extraction methods for top-shelf industry status.

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