With the addition of cannabis concentrate producers into the recreational markets, new regulations will be issued to govern the safe production of cannabis concentrates.
Currently, there are two prevailing technologies that are being used at scale to produce oils, budder products and shatter; BPO (using Butane gas) and CO2 extraction technologies. But which is the superior methodology.
Which produces more?
The Colorado state government, one of my favorite sources of studies and statistics of production estimates- shows that for butane extractions, every pound of trim going in you get about 78 grams coming out.
For CO2 extraction, you can expect a little less. For every pound going in you get about 69 grams of extracts.
Winner: Butane. It’s less than a 2 percent difference in output but over time and scale, that’ll make a difference, especially since your end product will be competing on shelf price.
When it comes the THC levels, CO2 has a slight advantage over BHO. CO2 is a little bit more tune-able when it comes to the cannabinoids, oils and waxes that it pulls out or leaves behind. BHO Shatter you typically see (advertised) as 78% to 84%. Good CO2 Shatter will test at 90+ percent THC.
Winner: CO2 clearly has an advantage. Using a combination of super and sub-critical processes, you have a little bit finer of a palette to pull from in terms of what you want to leave behind.
Cost of systems
There is no comparison in terms of the costs for a production sized system. You can buy a production based Butane system for about $25,000 dollars. With Butane requiring much less pressure than an equivalent CO2 system – you can buy systems that have hoses connecting each part. CO2 systems require pressures more than 10 times as high as Butane systems and so need to be made of much stronger materials. A 20L CO2 system will run about 200K. Of course on top of that $25K you have to figure in the cost of building a room that meets firecode standards and can monitor air quality to warn of Butane leaks (figure another $50K min) and don’t forget post processing testing for mandated limits of trace solvents.
Winner: Butane is the winner here. Not by as much as you would think but it still is the winner.
This one is easy for CO2 systems. CO2 is used in many food practices such as decaffeinating coffee or extracting saffron. It is in the carbonation we drink.
With Butane the choice is a little less clear.
Going back a few years, the Journal of Toxicological Sciences published a report completed by the University of South and a medical marijuana testing lab and looked at 47 samples from volatile solvent based extractions. At that time they found that 80% of the samples contained trace samples of the solvents of including isopentane, butane, heptane and propane.
When done correctly, Butane based systems should only contain trace amounts of any hydrocarbons (less than 1%).
Winner: CO2 , why take a chance.