Where to Save and Where to Spend: How to Plan the Ultimate Cost-Effective Extraction Facility

Botanical extraction facilities require a wide range of materials and equipment—some carrying a hefty price tag.

A business plan moves a botanical extraction facility in the right direction, so extraction technicians and managers can budget for essential equipment for all extraction methods, including CO2, ethanol, and hydrocarbon. Expenses for extraction facilities include licenses, property, team training, a quality extraction safety room, and more.

The design, construction, and operation of a botanical extraction facility is an immensely complex process with many factors to consider.

We’re committed to elevating the industry, so we put together this article that explores the details necessary to start a successful extraction operation.

The initial phase of botanical extraction depends significantly on your chosen extraction method, the equipment you want to have on hand, and your budget for bringing it all together. Let’s dive in.

How Do I Start an Extraction Business?

First, you must develop a comprehensive business plan. A well-thought-out botanical extraction business plan is crucial to developing a successful operation. Start by asking a few questions:

  • What is your niche?
  • Who is your customer?
  • What is your product?
  • What is your material source?
  • What is your extraction method?
  • How much product do you want to process per month?
  • What is your budget for materials and equipment?
  • Do you have a team?

At this initial stage, the best thing to do is to put pen to paper and actually write your business plan, answering the above questions. It’s the first building block toward your ultimate goal of a successful extraction business.

A solid business plan will help you determine a few details, including:

  • The size and layout of your extraction lab
  • The type of equipment you will need
  • The preferred extraction method
  • Product packaging
  • Marketing and sales options

What are the Three Main Types of Extraction Methods?

The main job of your extraction equipment is to remove precious compounds from the raw plant material. 

But there’s more than one way to extract a compound. The three main extraction methods are CO2, ethanol, and hydrocarbon. Each method brings a unique set of factors that can help determine the equipment you’ll need in your facility. 

What Are Extraction Startup Costs?

As with any new business, entrepreneurs can expect to drop a sizable amount of money to get their extraction business off the ground. 

Your startup costs encompass a handful of expenses, each with its own variables. This includes the extraction license, property and buildout, professional extraction team and training, safety room, and extraction equipment. 

Let’s go through each area and assess the costs.

Extraction License

Getting an extraction license comes at a considerable cost, and it varies depending on where your facility is located. 

In California, for example, the extraction licensing cost is adjusted based on your gross annual revenue. An initial non-refundable application fee is required, and that costs $1,000. Then there’s the state license fee, which ranges from $2,000 to $75,000, depending on your revenue. 

In Nevada, extraction companies must pay a non-refundable application fee of $5,000 and a $10,000 production license. Then, the annual fee is $3,300. 

And finally, in Colorado, the non-refundable application fee is $4,000, while the licensing fees range between $1,100 and $5,300, depending on the size of your business. 

Property & Buildout

The cost of a building will be your first significant expense. Most prefabricated buildings will cost around $50 per square foot. However, operating inside an existing building through a lease rather than ownership will generally cost less. For example, let’s say you’ve decided to lease instead of own. This will run about $22,500 in initial lease costs. 

The buildout and construction of the actual lab will run anywhere between $60-$100 per square foot to build out the space to code. The buildout should cost you about $200,000 and requires a team of experts, including a designer, an architect, an electrical engineer, and a mechanical engineer.

Professional Extraction Team & Training

This generally falls under “overhead,” along with rent, utilities, personnel, and administrative costs. Expect to shell out about $100,000 per year in salary for a laboratory director and facility manager and around $40,000-$45,000 for each lab technician.

Safety Room

When working with supercritical CO2, ethanol, or hydrocarbon, a C1D1 (Class 1 Division 1) compliant environment safety room is an imperative addition to your facility. Even if you’re implementing a “solventless” extraction, you still need the ventilation and filtration systems inherent in a C1D1 safety room. 

These safety rooms are built to prevent fires, explosions, product damage, and human injuries. The rooms include:

  • Emergency Lighting
  • Cameras for Remote Monitoring
  • LED and Dimmable Lights
  • Hood Lights
  • Ventilation Fans
  • Outlets and Switches
  • Exit Signs

A prefab C1D1 is the quickest and easiest way to get all the safety features you need in an extraction facility. Depending on the model, these can cost anywhere from around $30,000 to approximately $85,000. 

Extraction Equipment

Other equipment—such as stainless steel tanks, closed-loop extraction units, temperature control units, recovery pumps, vacuum pumps, and ovens—also carry costs. In total, you should expect to pay around $100,000 to $450,000 for the traditional lab equipment associated with the three main types of extraction. 

Now, let’s focus on each type of extraction and learn about all the related costs and other finer details.

CO2 Extraction

What is the cost of CO2 extraction equipment? 

The cost of CO2 extraction equipment depends mainly on the scale of your operation. Check out this helpful guide:

  • Small Scale
    • Process between 10 to 80 pounds per day. 
    • Price ranges from $85,000 to about $300,000.
  • Medium Scale 
    • Process between 25 to 450 pounds per day. 
    • Price ranges from $130,000 to $375,000.
  • Large Scale 
    • Process between 120 to 850 pounds per day.
    • Price ranges from $400,000 to $500,000.

What equipment is needed for CO2 extraction?

CO2 extraction is performed with a closed-loop extractor containing solvent in a sealed environment. Generally, there are a few main parts to this system:

  • A vessel for pressurized liquid CO2
  • A vessel for the botanical biomass
  • A vessel that separates the crude extract from the solvent

What are the ancillary requirements for CO2 extraction?

To perform CO2 botanical extraction legally, your facility must be licensed with a fully compliant laboratory. In addition, you must be able to store liquid CO2 tanks.

What compliance is required for CO2 extraction?

If you maintain a workplace facility that deals with hazardous chemicals, you’re required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement a Hazard Communication Program (HCP). 

What’s more, many safety regulations are involved in any extraction method. These safety regulations include:

  • ASME B31.3
    • The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) B31.1 code specifies the design requirements of high-pressure pipes. Code ASME B31.1 ensures your components can withstand the natural processes of THC extraction. 
  • ASME BPVC Sect. V111, Div. 1

Used to calculate the thickness measurement of pressure vessels operating at pressures that exceed 15 psi (internal or external). ASME BPVC Sect. V111, Div. 1 also addresses connections and bends in pipes and reinforcement.

Ethanol Extraction

What is the cost of ethanol extraction equipment?  

The up-front cost of ethanol extraction equipment is much more accessible to smaller companies. Ethanol extraction equipment ranges from $1,000 to over $100,000 for heavy-duty equipment meant for large-scale operations.

What equipment is needed for ethanol extraction?

The most common pieces of equipment required for ethanol extraction are mid- to large-scale centrifuges. These centrifuges are explicitly built for ethanol extraction and cannot be used for CO2 or hydrocarbon extraction.  

What are the ancillary requirements for ethanol extraction?

You must be a legally licensed, fully compliant laboratory with the ability to store ethanol.

What compliance is required for ethanol extraction?

Along with the ability to store ethanol, you must comply with the same safety requirements mentioned in the CO2 extraction section of this article.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

What is the cost of hydrocarbon extraction equipment?

Hydrocarbon extraction equipment can cost anywhere from $5,000 to more than $100,000, depending on the size of the operation and the capabilities you require. 


What equipment is needed for hydrocarbon extraction?

For closed-loop hydrocarbon extraction using butane or propane, you need a collection of crucial pieces of equipment to do it right. 

  • Stainless Steel Extraction Tanks (Highpoint by Worthington Industries)
  • Hydrocarbon Cannabis Extraction Units
  • Temperature Control Units (Chillers, Heaters)
  • Recovery Pumps
  • Vacuum Pumps
  • Vacuum Ovens
  • C1D1 Extraction Booth

What are the ancillary requirements for hydrocarbon extraction?

To perform hydrocarbon extraction, you must be legally licensed in a fully compliant laboratory with the ability to store flammable liquids, including liquid butane. 

What compliance is required for hydrocarbon extraction?

Along with the ability to store flammable liquids, you must comply with the same safety requirements mentioned in the CO2 extraction section of this article. 

How to Reduce the Risk of Recalls or Facility Closures

Recalls and facility closures can cost extraction companies thousands of dollars a day in lost revenue, refunds, and raw materials and labor costs. Along with dollars and cents, recalls and facility closures can also cause untold damage to a company’s brand and reputation. 

This section will explore a few ways to avoid recalls and facility closures. 

The Importance of Good Manufacturing Practice (CMP) Compliant Products 

The Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) system ensures the production of various goods within commercial facilities is consistent and controlled according to strict quality standards. GMP systems are in place for food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and all botanical extracts.

Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), GMP guards against potential consumer risks, including mislabeling, cross-contamination, and adulteration. cGMP means Current Good Manufacturing Practices because GMP standards are constantly updated as new information is discovered. 

Extraction professionals must proactively approach GMP and cGMP in the botanical extraction industry. First, you must choose GMP-compliant extraction equipment for your facility. This specialized equipment must have manuals, clean-in-place standards, and suitable build material to meet GMP regulations.

Ventilation, Cleanliness, and Sanitation

Not only does regular cleaning and maintenance of botanical extraction equipment keep everyone safe, but it also ensures optimal performance and maximum yield. 

The botanical extraction industry is growing—as is the demand for extracts. Proper upkeep is crucial to maintaining a long-term foothold in the extraction market. You need to know when to clean, how to clean, and when to schedule maintenance and replace certain parts.

Human Error

Human error is always possible when you have humans operating heavy-duty machinery. However, there are steps you can take to reduce instances of human error, and when human error does occur, you can do things to mitigate the damages.

  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) hold detailed information on specific hazardous chemicals. Each employee must maintain copies of SDS for all hazardous chemicals in the workplace, and all SDS should be readily accessible to workers when they are in the work areas during their shifts.
  • Gas Detection Systems are another safety net crucial in botanical extraction and processing labs. These systems prevent instances of combustion or poisoning. Gas detection systems should be easy to use and maintain, highly accurate, and versatile, functioning as part of an integrated system or independent monitor.
  • Employee Training goes a long way in protecting everyone from human error. Employers must train employees on the hazardous chemicals in their work area before their initial assignment and when new hazards are introduced into the work area. And, it’s vital that this training is conducted in a manner and language that all employees can understand.

How Workflow Can Save Money in the Extraction Process

Saving time has always been a significant benefit of workflow implementation, but extraction facilities can save money through this time-honored approach to organizational processes. Here are some ways that a workflow can help botanical extraction facilities reduce costs:

  • Automation: Human labor is expensive, especially when you factor in salary, insurance, training, etc. A good workflow can automate specific systems such as data entry, notifications, and recall. 
  • Streamline Communication: When dealing with manual processes to complete laboratory tasks, you risk mistakes and communication breakdown. A workflow handles all jobs the same way every time, drastically reducing procedural errors. 
  • Strengthen Decision-Making: Automated workflow delivers volumes of data, giving you everything you need to make informed decisions about lab processes. More consistent and reliable data equals fewer failed extractions. 
  • Reduce Operational Costs: Workflows make the hard decision to slash redundancies within your facility. Workflow management systems include monitoring capabilities to identify bottlenecks and track waste quickly. 

How High-Quality Biomass Saves Money

Sourcing high-quality biomass for your desired botanical extract is critical to obtaining the characteristics you want, such as compound content, flavors, consistency, and potency. When you practice plant material consistency, you are less likely to find out after extracting that your product isn’t viable.

Starting with high-quality biomass ensures a high-quality end product. In addition, these more refined botanical extracts have a better chance of resonating with consumers, ultimately performing better in the marketplace. 

A surefire way to guarantee quality biomass and plant material consistency is to test the plant material in an analytical lab before the extraction occurs. While an added expense up front, analytical labs can pay off by helping you establish a reputation for excellence.

How Being Energy Efficient Saves Money

Botanical extractions—CO2, ethanol, or hydrocarbon—consume much energy. As a result, power is one of the highest costs for any botanical extract manufacturing facility. When you implement energy-efficient practices, you can help reduce your monthly electric bill and reduce wasted energy. 

One way to be more energy efficient in an extraction facility is to run extraction systems during off-peak hours. This is when energy prices are at their lowest. This might mean working the graveyard shift, but it could be highly cost-effective if you can find a technician. You should also seek out equipment that keeps power consumption in check and operate your systems using environmental standards that reduce waste.

Show your commitment to quality and professionalism with tanks purpose-built for hydrocarbon extraction.