How to Maintain Quality During Hydrocarbon Botanical Extraction

Specific standards and practices are necessary to maintain the quality of extracted botanical materials.

Hydrocarbon botanical extraction utilizes a solvent like butane or propane to extract compounds from plant material. Manufacturers use the extracted materials in various products found on legal retail outlet shelves. Botanical extraction requires heavy-duty equipment extraction facility managers and technicians must maintain.

Strict supervision is necessary at every step of the botanical extraction process to ensure the finished products move from facilities to store shelves. 

Ensuring that a high-quality extract is supplied to consumers is the main objective—and every aspect of your botanical extraction effort must be geared toward reaching this goal. 

Of course, you know maintaining quality is crucial to moving products. That’s the case in every industry.  

But how can you maintain a high standard of quality during hydrocarbon extraction? That’s the question we’re here to answer in this blog. 

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Hydrocarbon Extraction?

A handful of extraction methods can be applied to plant materials by technicians searching for those all-important, beneficial botanical compounds. 

We’re here to focus on one of the most powerful and efficient methods: hydrocarbon extraction.

Hydrocarbon extraction has a long history, particularly in the food industry, where it’s been utilized to develop flavorings and colorings. 

More recently, hydrocarbon extraction—using propane, butane, or a blend of both gasses—has been used to create targeted botanical extracts that boast exceptional purity and potency. 

In most circumstances, butane (the most common hydrocarbon extraction gas) is combined with botanical plant materials during the hydrocarbon extraction process. 

Once butane surrounds the raw plant material, it dissolves and extracts the desired compounds. 

Butane can accomplish this feat thanks to its low boiling point, allowing it to target precious botanical compounds quickly and efficiently (it’s also cost-effective).  

Propane has an even lower boiling point; as such, it’s common for extractors to combine both gasses for a more effective and efficient process, resulting in a higher grade botanical extraction.

But how can technicians apply butane and propane hydrocarbon extraction to maintain the quality of the products?

Know Where Your Butane, Propane, and Tanks Are From

Know your sources. Butane, propane, and tanks (or cylinders) should come from reputable manufacturers with a long history of reliable output. 

In many ways, the world of botanical extraction is still the wild west, with new companies cropping up seemingly out of nowhere.

You don’t want to inhibit productivity or risk reputation damage through a partnership with inexperienced equipment manufacturers; you’ll quickly discover the equipment, materials, and most importantly – the results – fall short of expectations. 

Highpoint by Worthington Enterprises traces its history back more than 65 years, using its time-tested steel manufacturing processes to develop tanks built exclusively for the botanical extraction industry

You must use a quality tank to hold the high-purity hydrocarbons essential to the extraction process. The properties of our proprietary, purpose-built stainless steel cylinders ensure a clean, consistent end product.

Use High-Quality Plant Material

If you start your extraction process with low-quality plant material, you’re already working at a disadvantage. 

Your raw materials should equal the standard you want to see in your final product. 

Making sure only to use high-quality plant material can go a long way in bringing a product to market that consumers want to pull off the shelf. 

And when you get your hands on high-end plant material, be sure to store it in a cool, dark place, safely packed in vacuum-sealed or nitrogen-filled bags. 

Plant material rapidly degrades when exposed to heat, oxygen, and ultraviolet rays—so take the necessary precautions to limit the plant’s exposure to these primary factors.

Filter Your Hydrocarbon Extracts

During manufacturing, you must filter hydrocarbon extracts to produce pure and potent botanical products. 

Filtration methods and equipment can vary depending on the biomass in question and the targeted end product.

Regardless, you should follow certain fundamental scientific principles when filtering so that your hydrocarbon extract reaches high standards, regardless of equipment, biomass, or product. 

The point of filtering hydrocarbon extracts is to remove excess plant matter, including chlorophyll, lipids, and other plant particles that can negatively impact the taste and color of botanical extracts. 

For hydrocarbon extracts, filtration begins after the solvent passes through the biomass and requires frigid temperatures, in a process known as winterization.

When the extract reaches frigid temperatures, fats and lipids containing unwanted plant materials are flushed out, and the frozen materials are filtered out of the desired hydrocarbon extract. 

The final filtered product should be a clear, amber-hued extract free of all the particulates that impact a bitter taste. 

After extraction, winterization typically requires a second solvent (usually chilled ethanol) to separate fats, waxes, and lipids.

Consider Further Refining Your Hydrocarbon Extraction

To expand on filtration, let’s discuss refinement. After the primary extraction takes place, you have the option to refine your extracted product further. 

Extraction refinement could mean utilizing in-line de-waxing, a filtration method similar to what we mentioned in the previous section of this blog. 

In-line de-waxing in closed-loop extractors refers to passing the extraction through stainless steel beads to filter unwanted materials.

Purge Extracts for a Cleaner Final Product

Vacuum purging is performed in a vacuum oven that evaporates residual solvents from the end product. This results in a cleaner, more purely flavored botanical oil, free of harsh-tasting butane or propane. 

For large extraction facilities, purging systems consist of industrial-scale vacuum chambers capable of purging multiple batches simultaneously. 

This increases efficiency and ensures your team can roll out enough high-quality botanical extracts to satisfy the marketplace and bolster your bottom line.

Other purging techniques can be utilized depending on the final product desired by your extraction facility. 

Two additional purging techniques include a whipping process to remove residual solvent and a process that sees the concentrate spread evenly across a surface and placed in an oven to purge for up to two days.

Invest in Scalable Extraction Equipment

As we stated earlier, the quality of your product often depends on the tools employed during the hydrocarbon extraction process. 

When you invest in a full-scale extraction system, you must consider throughput, staff experience, temperatures, facility location, etc. 

There’s a lot of competition in the botanical extract industry—you must do everything possible to keep production moving briskly.

Scalable extraction equipment features user-friendly systems capable of producing a full line of botanical hydrocarbon extracts at a high throughput rate. 

An automated light hydrocarbon extraction system gives facility managers and technicians the power to produce multiple types of concentrates at a high level of quality.

Quality and Consistency are Optimal in the Extraction Industry

Customers demonstrate demand for quality and consistency by how they spend their money. 

If a product dips in quality, no matter the industry, customers will gravitate to a different product that consistently adheres to a high standard of quality. 

Botanical extraction facilities that use hydrocarbons can control their consumer destiny by enlisting time-honored techniques and partnering with reliable equipment manufacturers.

Are you using the best hydrocarbon extraction equipment available? Let's find out!