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Don’t miss out: Benefits of Propane Extraction

Propane as a Solvent

The cannabis concentrate market heavily relies on hydrocarbon extractions, largely butane and propane extraction. While butane has traditionally received more attention due to the early dominance of butane hash oil (BHO), each of these hydrocarbon solvents is now widely utilized.

In this discussion, our focus shifts to the utilization of propane in cannabis extraction. Propane, whether used alone or in combination with butane, proves advantageous for preserving cannabinoids and terpenoids.

Propane Hash Oil

Propane Hash Oil (PHO) refers to the extraction process involving propane as the solvent. Due to propane’s inherent chemical properties, such as its lower boiling point, PHO concentrates naturally possess higher levels of cannabinoids and terpenes compared to their BHO counterparts. Consequently, when executed correctly, most PHO concentrates exhibit enhanced potency and a richer flavor profile.

PHO products are wide-ranging in consistencies. Many of the dab-able products derived from PHO resemble wax and/or budder—a buttery and workable concentrate. Another product gaining in popularity that propane is ideal for is sugar wax, which takes advantage of PHO’s inclination for crystallization.

Most notable benefits include:

1. With an exceptionally low boiling point of 43.6°F / -42°C, propane proves highly effective in preserving the most volatile cannabinoids and terpenes during solvent purging, offering unmatched utility.

2. Propane extraction provides superior solvent recovery capabilities. When equipped with the appropriate machinery, it enables the recovery of a significant proportion of the propane used during extraction, surpassing the rates achieved by other systems reliant on butane.

3. Less solvent is used during “pour-outs” with propane than butane. Propane pour-outs are generally a muffin consistency. While butane is most often poured out in liquid form containing far more solvent in the slurry. Therefore, propane reduces the time required in a vacuum oven, such as Across International’s.

4. Propane does a great job of avoiding the extraction of chlorophyll. Propane extraction often yields a cleaner and lighter product, which can result in less time on the retail shelves.

5. Hydrocarbon extraction equipment has long been more economically viable, particularly for small to medium-sized facilities than CO2 and ethanol production systems. However, Illuminated Extractors ProJak™ Refrigeration Technology has made scaling for high-quality, wet/cold extraction with hydrocarbons possible.

6. Though shocking to many, hydrocarbon extraction systems, in a sense, are a safer alternative to CO2 in that hydrocarbon systems operate at a far lower PSI (50 to 150 psi) compared to CO2 equipment which operates at (500 psi) at room temperature.

7. Propane extraction exhibits exceptional selectivity for terpenes, resulting in concentrates with heightened flavor and aroma profiles, such as High Terpene Full Spectrum Extracts (HTFSE).

8. The resulting extracts from propane extraction display a lighter hue, ranging from a pale yellow to a golden color, distinguishing them from butane extracts, often a determining factor of shelf life.

9. Propane extraction boasts faster run times than propane due to its lower boiling point. This allows for much more efficient solvent recovery.

10. Propane-extracted products tend to crystalize over time, making it an ideal method to produce sugar wax – a simple, increasingly demanded retail product.

Propane extractions exhibit a higher capacity for preserving terpenes while removing fewer fats and lipids compared to butane extractions. On the other hand, butane extractions can yield a higher concentration of cannabinoids, resulting in the production of more stable products, such as shatter, when compared to the relatively less stable sugar-like products obtained through propane extraction.

Blends

Many experienced operators like to utilize the best qualities of each solvent for extraction efficiency and product-specific blends of butane and propane. This blending technique results in an azeotropic mixture, striking a favorable balance in terms of the boiling point of the solvent blend, considering the characteristics of both solvents.

When employing hydrocarbon solvent blends, operators may opt for slightly higher pressures than those used when utilizing pure butane as the solvent. Among the commonly chosen blends, processors often opt for either a 70% butane and 30% propane blend, an evenly balanced 50/50 blend, or a 70% propane 30% butane blend.

Both butane and propane have received a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) rating by the United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration). It’s important to keep in mind many propane and butane providers utilize methyl mercaptan to help identify leaks. So, sourcing your instrument-grade solvent from a reputable provider such as Solvent Direct ensures your solvent remains uncontaminated and pure. Instrument grade solvent is at least 99.5% pure.

Before placing an order for propane or butane, always ask the vendor to provide a COA (certificate of analysis) documenting the PPM (parts per million) of constituents in their solvent. It is now considered best practice for labs to distill butane and/or propane after recovery/before injection.

In Conclusion

If you haven’t experimented with propane, now might be the time to consider it. With market conditions growing more challenging, every productivity increase and step towards efficiency should be on the table. Adding propane to 100% butane could be the difference in your team squeezing in an extra run per shift. Blends with lower percentages of propane, the differences in the end products can be nearly negligible.

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