06 Dec Co2 vs. Ethanol Safety Concerns
Op-Ed by Cole Holstrom, Senior Technical Advisor
I see it all the time. Investors are understandably focused on the return on investment with their cannabis and hemp extraction equipment. I watch them think outside the box with all the possible methods, laser-focused on how they can make a quick buck. Unfortunately, the cost of employee safety is often an overlooked part of the equation. In my experience, owners definitely need to think “inside the box” when it comes to safe extraction methods and ethanol safety concerns.
In my world of science and engineering, we commonly use the term “black box” to reference a device that is poorly understood, but just “works.” As in, “I don’t know how my microwave works… it’s a ‘Black Box,’ but it heats my pizza rolls and that’s all I care about.”
During my years as a Senior Technical Advisor, and field technician, I’ve spent a lot of time around extraktLAB’s Model 140. Despite it literally being a black box (aside from the new 2019 stainless steel model) there are some specific qualities about it that I really appreciate against the competition. Maybe I’m telling you something you already know, but give me a moment to wax poetic about these admirable aspects:
1.) Despite being a high-pressure system, redundant safety features have routinely stopped me from doing something stupid. I’ve dead-headed a pump before by messing up a flow path and the system has stopped itself before anything blew. Phew!
2.) The machine PUMPS out oil. I’ve got a friend in Northern California who only deals in equipment that works. He’s got an extraktLAB Model 140, and he feeds me all the proper parameters. He’s doing his thing and would tell me in a nano-second if he was unhappy with it. He’s thrilled. In fact, he hasn’t looked back on the BHO he used to run now that he has the Model 140.
3.) Automation. The extraktLAB Model 140’s little CPU brain, hidden somewhere inside that black box, monitors its own internal parameters and in doing so: it takes care of itself. It self-regulates optimum pressures and allows operators to focus on just FEEDING THE MACHINE. You have to feed the machine continuously since the marketed throughput (1 hour!) is not a joke. Talk about a return on investment–low labor requirements and throughput every hour. Safety is just the cherry on top.
What about ethanol safety concerns?!?
“Aaaaah but what of ethanol???” you say. Yes, ethanol is the darling extraction method of 2018, largely in part to paid advertorials in popular cannabis media outlets.
And that’s fine, but let me tell you something about the intense safety implications. Now granted, this is just anecdotal from a friend of mine, but so is just about everything in this industry:
In my hometown, they just broke ground for a bio-ethanol plant. It’s a big deal, lots of fanfare, 300 new jobs… all that good stuff. Now, my buddy is a firefighter for the local township. He’s told me what a nightmare it has been to prepare for this. Apparently, a pool of ethanol can burn with an invisible flame, and they have had to create specific protocols to train their staff on how to deal with this.
This ethanol refinery is a billion dollar, understood industry. It’s an established thing. Given all the regulations I’ve already had to go through to certify a CO2 machine, just imagine the frustrating regulations one has to deal with when considering the volume of ethanol required to operate such a large facility.
For example, people often ask me, “what happens once the city finds out I need gallons upon gallons of ethanol on site?” I can confidently tell them that the city will be deeply invested in monitoring their business on a regular basis. Most people don’t want to deal with that kind of crackdown and intrusion. Not to mention, hassle.
When I explain to these folks how safe CO2 is and the benefits they’ll see from using this extraction method (ahem, 1% waste vs 20% waste with ethanol), they quickly understand the real power of this business model. And, how safe it is.
There’s no question in my mind that this Black Box just simply works. The extraktLAB Model 140 supercritical CO2 extractor offers a full solution and is scalable (sorry, ethanol). There might not be pizza rolls involved, but it’s all I care about.