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A Comparison of Hemp Oil Refinement Methods | extraktLAB
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A Comparison of Hemp Oil Refinement Methods

Hemp oil that is being refined through winterization

A Comparison of Hemp Oil Refinement Methods

The Market for Hemp and Cannabis Extracts Continues to Grow

The market fundamentals for the hemp and cannabis industry are spectacular. The Brightfield Group, a leading industry analyst organization, recently reported that the market for hemp and CBD alone could hit $22 billion by 2020.

Due to federal regulation, thousands of small-business owners have been encouraged to enter their local markets without the threat of a major national competitor.

How Can I Enter the Market?

A popular point of entry into the hemp and cannabis market is through extracts, especially oils. Hemp oil, which is high in CBD, and cannabis oil, which has a high concentration of THC, are both produced by running the plant material through a botanical extraction process.

There are multiple ways to extract these oils, with supercritical CO2 extraction producing some of the quickest, safest, and purest output.

How Can I Further Refine Cannabis or Hemp Oil?

But many business professionals wonder: What products can I make from the oil that comes out of the extractor? Does cannabis or hemp oil even need further refinement? In this post, we will discuss the different options available for refining oils once they’ve been extracted.

Chart showing the different refinement options for extracted hemp and cannabis oil

Producing Isolate from Extracted Oil

A popular refinement option is to produce isolates from the extracted oil. This allows you to separate specific cannabinoids, remove impurities from the crude oil, and even separate pesticides that may be present in the product. The extraktLAB Pure99 chromatography system offers a versatile isolate production solution for separating actives into fractions at the 200-400kg/month level.

Producing Distillate from Extracted Oil

You can produce distillate using a distillation apparatus (such as a wiped film still or other efficient molecular distillation methods) for removal of matrix and color at the cost of actives loss. Distillation is not typically used for separating actives into isolate. Once the distillate is obtained, you may add terpenes to modify the flavor and aroma.

Producing Decolored Oils

The crude cannabis or hemp oils that result from the extraction process will have a dark green hue. It is possible to produce decolored oils using sorbents such as CarbonX to remove a tremendous amount of matrix and color while minimizing the loss of active compounds.

Selectivity of sorbents really depends on the solvent. In ethanol, you can expect that C18 will remove hydrophobic large plant waxes and polyols (sugar alcohols); alumina (n/a,b) is a Lewis acid and sucks up Lewis bases. Silica basically is covered with silanols that, depending on the pH, can be protonated. You need to consider strongly the preconditioning of all these sorbents.

Sell the Crude Oil Without Refining

Given the ever-expanding size of the market for hemp and cannabis oil extracts, you could opt to just sell the crude oil as-is. You are still likely to find buyers who are interested in the raw oil, especially CBD oil.

The initial oil produced after CO2 extraction, with a deep green color, still contains chlorophyll and residual plant material. You may choose to market this product without subjecting it to any further processing or filtration.

Winterize the Extracted Oil to Remove the Wax

Lastly, you may consider winterizing the cannabis or hemp oil extract. Winterization, in this context, is the process of precipitating waxes from ethanolic solutions. The extracted oil is mixed with alcohol to form a solution which is heated to evaporate the solvent, then frozen.

Typically, the concentration of active compounds is upgraded through winterizing. However, it is worth noting that waxes are approximately 10-15% w/w (depending on the strain), so you will see some loss of actives that are caught in the precipitated waxes.

extraktLAB’s DrainDroyd is used to dewax up to five liters of winterized oil in only five minutes.

Any questions? extraktLAB is here to help.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of options available for refining your botanical extracts. extraktLAB is here to answer any questions you may have regarding the refinement methods discussed above. Call our sales team at 651-600-0036 or fill out our contact form for more information!