CBD Processing: Hemp Extraction & Processing CBD Extract

This article is a detailed guide to CBD processing in hemp and CBD industry from plant to product. It covers a variety of production techniques and topics including hemp farming, decortication, grinding, industrial hemp, how to make CBD distillate, hemp flower processing, cannabinoid products, how to extract quality CBD oils, extraktLAB’s facility services and more.

Over the last 2-4 years, there has been an irrefutable boom in the industry of CBD. According to one report, the expected market growth of hemp and CBD production is estimated to reach a substantial $13 billion by 2023. This reflects the increasing demand for hemp and CBD production and the incredible variety of products and services that stem from it.

But, the myriad of products that come from processing are all derived from the cultivation of the plant. This involves hemp farming – planting, harvesting, shucking, separating, formulating and creating final products. So, let’s dive into the world of the CBD industry and see just where these high quality products come from.

What is CBD Processing, and What Makes it Different from Cannabis?

First things first: what exactly is hemp? Hemp is a particular species of cannabis sativa that has been grown for industrial use for. Harvest and use of this plant may include the production of clothing, paper, paints, biodegradable plastics food products and more through the processing of the plant. This kind of cannabis processing has been used for tens of thousands of years and is continuing to grow exponentially.

Unlike its close cannabis cousin, marijuana, hemp tends to have far lower amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that causes a “high” in the marijuana plant. However, recent uses of cannabis and hemp have included the the practice of extraction and use of another common cannabinoid: cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD has exploded in popularity over the course of just a few years as producers have learned how to make CBD oil at home and in full scale production opening up a broad, profitable industry. While research is still being conducted on CBD, there are many studies that claim quality CBD oils to have numerous health benefits with product customer testimonies to match. Today, you will likely find everything from skin care products to vaporizers to edibles that contain CBD distillate or isolate in high quantities.

With a growing list of uses, hemp and cannabis have been considered somewhat limitless plants. But, in order to access its bevy of uses, it has to be processed into usable materials like textiles or CBD product. In order to do that, we have to use specialized equipment for harvest, drying, extracting and processing cannabis.

man holding dried hemp

Supercritical Extraction Machine

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A Quick Look at Cannabis Farming Equipment

With the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Act, the world of CBD and hemp derived products opened up, and with those products, the need for hemp crop farming and hemp processing equipment. Let’s examine some of that equipment that hemp farmers use here:

Combine: Similar to combines that harvest other crops, the combine is used by hemp farmers to collect bulk hemp stalks for industrial use; however, this kind of machinery would drastically reduce the capability to create quality CBD oils as it compromises the quality of the hemp flower itself.

CBD Hemp Harvester: Used specifically to maintain the high quality of CBD hemp flower, this machinery carefully cuts the hemp flower at the stalk and loads the crop together to reduce any damage to the CBD flower. The same equipment used by farmers to obtain CBD flower can be used for high quality THC production from marijuana plants.

Decorticator: This particular piece of hemp farming equipment is very important to create any kind of industrial bulk hemp crop product. Processors use decorticators to separate the fibrous internal material from the stem of the hemp. Both of these materials are used for separate purposes:

Industrial Farming Materials

Bast (fiber):

On the inside of the cannabis plant stalk is a fibrous material called the “bast.” This material is commonly used in production of high quality clothing, rugs, rope, and canvas. The common theme is that these products normally created from cotton, wool, silk, etc. can be replaced with a relatively prevalent source fibre material in this industry. This is why hemp has been revered as a kind of “miracle crop” for its many applications.

Shiv (stem):

In the very center of the hemp stalk is a tubular tough material called the “shiv” or “hurd.” This material is used by processors to create a vast array of products including cement, insulation, paper, biodegradable plastics, animal bedding, mulch, and more.

Seed:

There are many different uses for hemp seed- most of them used as oil or food products. Once they are processed, hulled hemp seeds can be eaten raw, pressed to make hemp oil, ground into meal, used in salad dressings, and much more that are very high in nutrition. Hemp seed oil not the same as CBD oil and will not have the same effects.

Flower:

CBD hemp is most often harvested for its high cannabinoid content after drying- namely CBD or cannabidiol. Though other cannabinoids and compounds are beginning to see frequent extraction and use from hemp flower, high CBD hemp in particular has swept the health and wellness product market with scientific practice and research, and customer testimony that report numerous health benefits with little risk from quality CBD oils. It’s also common for cultivators to practice making oil high in CBD and distillate at home as well via alcohol extraction method.

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How Cultivation Works for Industrial and CBD Production

The applications of the hemp business are seemingly endless, but how is the industrial processing practice done successfully? Let’s explore the process from start to finish.

The practice of creating cannabinoid products and industrial hemp products both start in similar fashion by harvesting the plant; however, the practice differs from this first step:

Industrial Farming

Industrial processing is often centered around the early stages of blooming as the focus lies primarily on the materials and fibre contained in the hemp stalk and not the flower. In order for processors to separate those components into high end usable materials, decortication is necessary.

High CBD Hemp and Other Cannabinoid Extraction

Whether making individual CBD oil at home with an alcohol extraction, or businesses extracting in an industrial scale, the process of decortication is unnecessary as the focus lies on the high CBD hemp flowers and other cannabis compounds, not the fibrous materials from the stem of the hemp plant. The timing of this process is focused on the maturity of the plants to ensure high CBD content and mature hemp seeds.

After the cannabis plant is carefully harvested to avoid damaging the valuable buds, the CBD hemp is run through the shucking process. This uses equipment that separates the CBD from the rest of the plant material. The reason for this is that the flower has a much higher CBD content than the remainder of the plant. After the separated CBD flowers and seeds have been tested for any unwanted residuals, they will be prepared for CBD extraction for distillate and hempseed oil production. This could be large scale CO2 extraction, or simple food-grade alcohol extraction done at a home setting.

There are also more cannabinoids and cannabis compounds that are increasingly extracted and used from the hemp plant including CBG or Cannabigerol. CBG is an interesting cannabinoid on its own. Though CBG does not occur in naturally high levels in the hemp plant, there are ways to manipulate the levels of CBG for extraction purposes. Depending on the strain of plant, the way it is grown, and other contributing factors, CBG can be used in many of the same ways as CBD. Because it is more difficult to produce, home alcohol extractions are nearly impossible for this cannabinoid.

The difference in CBG compared to CBD, however, is in its perceived medical effects. According to research and customer testimony, CBG is particularly effective at relieving pain – maybe more so than CBD alone. This provides interesting opportunities for CBG extraction, production and use in the recreational and medical industry – all of which start with the processing of the hemp or cannabis plant. It will be interesting to see the increased studies performed on CBG and other cannabinoids derived from hemp by processors.

 

two scientist working on hemp processing

What Industries Benefit from the Cannabis Industry?

Industrial Production

A primary function of the this processing industry outside of CBD distillate production is the manufacture of industrial hemp. By processing nearly every part of the hemp plant, businesses are capable of creating a vast array of products from food and essential oils to clothing and even biofuel.

Industrial Products

Because of the versatility of industrial hemp there are nearly countless products that are hitting a variety of markets around the world. This includes: paper products, clothing, eyewear, composites, recyclable materials, hempcrete, jewelry, skin care products, biofuel, and conductive materials just to name a few.

Oil and Food Products

Hemp is very quickly finding its way to grocery store shelves and kitchen cupboards around the world. Many of its uses are considered to be healthy alternatives to food items that are consumed in large quantities for customers including protein products, teas, energy bars, butter, milk, alcohol, flour, granola, cold pressed oils and more.

CBD Oil Extraction

Apart from processing in the industrial hemp industry, the hemp flower of the plant also provides the opportunity for businesses to create high quality CBD oils, and high value CBD oil products through hemp oil extraction. There is a booming consumer demand for CBD distillate products by which various extraction and distillation methods can be created, formulated, and marketed through the processing of CBD. This widens the desire to make CBD oil using an at home method or on a large scale production. let’s take a look through this side of the CBD production process from start to finish.

Within recent years, the study and use of quality CBD oils has exploded in the hemp and cannabis industry as producers continue to learn how to make CBD oil at home or in large scale labs settings. Various studies and user testimonies suggest that CBD could potentially aid a number of health issues including anxiety, insomnia, seizures, pain and more. While the FDA has not confirmed that CBD can treat any of these medical issues, further research continues to suggest that these claims are valid and a plethora of products have hit the shelves with CBD.

calculator layout from extraktLAB

CBD Extract Products

Extract Tinctures

Tinctures with CBD have become wildly popular in health communities with first-person reviews claiming that CBD products help with anxiety, sleep, pain, seizures and other ailments. These CBD tinctures may be created using isolate CBD, or full spectrum CBD distillate or even simple alcohol extractions. CBD Isolate is a great option for those looking to avoid THC at any level, where full spectrum CBD products may benefit those looking for the synergistic effects of CBD, other cannabinoids and terpenes together.

CBD Extract Vape Products

A great alternative to smoking tobacco products, CBD vape products are often considered to be less harmful than smoking. That being said, it is very important to consider the reputation of the company selling the CBD vape product and to ensure user safety.  These products can be made with CBD isolate or CBD distillate as well.

CBD Oil Edibles

Quality CBD oils and other isolate cannabinoids extracted from hemp are currently being implemented into edibles such as gummies and other candies, baked goods, teas, sodas and more. As with CBD tinctures, many users claim to have beneficial health effects from these products. These are perhaps the easiest product to make from CBD oil at home.

Topicals and Oil

Another popular use for isolate CBD is in topical products. These come in the form of face serums, lotions, salves, and pain remedy creams. While CBD is best consumed or inhaled for quicker bioavailability, it does have the capability to be absorbed through the skin. This makes isolate CBD pain creams very effective for certain ailments like joint and back pain. CBD lotions are also popular believing to potentially have therapeutic effects on the skin directly.

The Countless Benefits of the Cannabis Plant

The list of benefits that hemp and CBD has to offer is vast for both consumers and producers alike. As processing operations increase, the many benefits of this diverse plant will continue to reveal themselves in a number of ways:

High Quality Food Choices

As hemp and CBD continues to rise in popularity, a variety of healthy, hemp derived food items like hemp seed oil will continue to find their way to store shelves. These products could quickly replace less healthy food choices and provide readily available alternatives for many. CBD distillate or isolate infused edibles are also increasingly popular in many stores.

Countless Industrial Uses

As western civilization continues to advance, the utilization of hemp products continues to make progress. The beginnings of hemp alternatives are increasing in popularity in many facets of society including clothing, fuel, construction and more. Many of these alternatives are highly beneficial when compared to conventional products and could be rendered archaic as industrial hemp use increases.

Evidence for Medical Benefits of CBD Extract Oil

While research is still being conducted, there is a healthy amount of evidence that may prove CBD distillate or isolate and other medical hemp derived cannabinoids to be beneficial for health and wellness. User testimonies claiming that these high CBD products decrease anxiety, depression, pain and other health issues continue to show support for healthy medicinal alternatives in the form of CBD distillate or isolate extracts from medical hemp flower. Though further research must be conducted on CBD to attain its many potentials and risks, CBD based products are on the rise and have proven themselves to be effective according to individual reports. It is likely that CBD will continue to prove an effective remedy for many ailments as research continues.

Understand more about Supercritical CO2 Extraction through extraktLAB’s FAQ’s and Hemp Extraction article. ExtraktLAB is a GMP compliant, ISO certified company dedicated to offering the best full-turnkey CBD processing solutions in the hemp extraction market. GMP practice is at the forefront of our efforts to provide the best service for our customers to create their own CBD processing startups. For more information on our Turnkey solutions, training service, GMP compliant support service and facility layout services, give us a call at: 651-600-0036.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the solvent loss for ethanol extraction?

Hemp and cannabis biomass is an extremely absorbent material.  As a consequence, a large amount of solvent volume must be added to the biomass to first solvate the biomass and then fluidize it. For ethanol extraction, approximately one gallon of ethanol is required to extract 1 lb of hemp. Solvent loss comes from the incomplete recovery of that solvent from the hemp.

The following table details the estimated solvent loss from ethanol extraction as a function of volume of hemp processed:

Lbs processed per day Daily requirement of 

ethanol  (gallons)

Daily Loss of ethanol (gallons) at 90% recovery of ethanol Max Cost of Solvent Loss per day:

$16-30/gal food grade ethanol

$6-8/ gal denatured

Calculated at $30/gal

500 500-1500 50-150  $1,500-45,000
1000 1000-3000 100-300 $3,000-9,000
2000 2000-6000 200-600 $6000-18,000
10000 10000-30000 1000-3000 $30,000-90,000

 

 Another source of solvent loss is incomplete recovery of solvent from the CBD hemp oil. 

How many times can I recycle or reuse ethanol from an ethanol extractor?

In guidance published by the FDA in 2010,  plans for the reuse of solvents  must be accompanied by a  Declaration of the maximum number of times the solvent can be reused. 

 the FDA has recognized that contaminants buildup in the solvent over time as they are  recovered and reused  

As a consequence, the FDA guidelines recommend that the solvents be brought back to a suitable state before Reuse. A suitable reuse is defined by  the original specifications for the solvent that is being used.  

 In keeping with a risk-based approach to process validation, the key risk to address with solvent reuse is cross-contamination. Cross-contamination could happen when a  solvent dissolves a low level contaminant  from the biomass being extracted. As the solvent is removed, the contaminant can become magnified and concentrated in either the oil or the solvent during solvent recovery. Cross contamination then occurs when a contaminated solvent is used to extract a non contaminated batch.

Contaminants are typically identified during incoming inspection  but may show up  later during processing  as the oil becomes more refined. Hemp is typically sampled at receiving by quality assurance and a series of tests are conducted on the Hemp biomass in order to determine if the incoming material  is contaminated with pesticides, solvents, heavy metals or if it has significant microbial content. Contaminants that are identified in the quality inspection should be tested for build up in the extraction solvent during validation.

Other sources for contamination include carbon black or activated carbon that is typically used in ethanol extraction to remove chlorophyll from the ethanol. Combustion byproducts that are incorporated into the structure of carbon black can dissolve in the ethanol  and contaminate.

According to FDA guidelines, the number of times ethanol solvent can be reused must be validated according to a validation protocol. Once the method and process has been validated, the requirements for testing each reuse batch  may not be required depending on the risks identified during the validation study.

 As a general rule of thumb, a solvent may be reused successfully 20-50 times. Whatever your company’s current practice is, it is important to define the process, validate the process, establish specifications for reuse, and also set up a testing program to measure for contaminants. In all likelihood, a solvent changeover is probably in your future  and it’s cost should not be neglected in your overall operating cost model. It is easy to estimate the cost of solving change over as it is the same as the start-up cost:

Lbs processed per day Daily requirement of 

ethanol  (gallons)

Cost per gallon:

$16-30/gal food grade

$6-8/ gal denatured

Calculated at $30/gal

500 500-1500 $15,000-45,000
1000 1000-3000 $30,000-90,000
2000 2000-6000 $60,000-180,000
10000 10000-30000 $300,000-900,000

 

 The solvent changeover cost on a 60 day change over cycle can then be estimated on a per year basis according to the following table:

Lbs processed per day Change Over Frequency Cost of Changeover Max Annual Cost 
500 60 days $15,000-45,000 $270,000
1000 60 days $30,000-90,000 $540,000
2000 60 days $60,000-180,000 $1,080,000
10000 60 days $300,000-900,000 $5,400,000

 

By extension, the solvent testing costs will also be important to address:

Lbs processed per day Change Over Frequency Cost of Testing

(pesticides, solvents), 

Unknowns testing can be 5-10k USD per unknown.

Max Annual Cost 
500 60 days $200-400 $2400
1000 60 days $200-400 $2400
2000 60 days $200-400 $2400
10000 60 days $200-400 $2400

 

 It is important to insist that unknowns be flagged by your laboratory. 

What is supercritical CO2 extraction?

Supercritical CO2 extraction is used in hemp processing in hemp extraction for extracting CBD oil from hemp biomass. You can also be used to extract any Botanical oil from any plant material.

The co2 extraction typically takes place above the supercritical pressure and temperature for CO2. Is 1,070 PSI and 31 degrees Celsius.

Under supercritical conditions, the CO2 behaves much like hexane in terms of its solubility selectivity.

Does ethanol extraction have a greater throughput than CO2 extraction?

Hemp processing equipment can be scaled for 1 to 5 tons of extracted hemp per day. It’s generally not a fair comparison to compare the throughput on an instrument from two different companies. What is fair is to specify the throughput At the tonnage process per day and then look at the operating cost for that process. You can also look at the equipment and Facilities cost to accommodate that level of Production. after you have all of your costs accounted for including the hidden costs, then you can calculate the net present value for each investment.

How much hemp can be processed per day with CO2 extraction?

CO2 extraction facilities have been scaled to do hundreds of tons per day of biomass extractions. These facilities are very safe compared to the equivalent extraction facilities that use Flammable solvents.
In Terms of extraction facilities for processing hemp, we have built facilities that will process 5 tons of hemp biomass per day in a safe, low cost, low energy, small footprint operation.

Does it cost less to process hemp with Co2 compared with Ethanol?

Yes.
In fact the operating cost for CO2 extraction is dramatically less than the operating costs associated with ethanol.

Extraction with Ethanol is a process that is typically run at low temperatures. First the ethanol is cooled to below -20oC before it is introduced to the hemp. Cooling the ethanol reduces the amount of extracted chlorophyll and waxes. If you account for the energy required to chill the ethanol down to those low temperatures and then also evaporate after use, the energy bill for extracting ethanol is approximately 3-6x the cost of extracting with CO2. However, the energy cost is really not the key driver in the overall operating costs.
Ethanol extraction requires a significant amount of ethanol to be used per pound of hemp. In fact, about 1 to 1.5 gallons of ethanol must be used per pound of dry hemp in order to extract. Hemp is a very absorbent biomass material and the ethanol must fully saturate the hemp plant before any extraction can take place. For this reason a large volume of ethanol is needed to extract cbd from hemp.
The key cost driver or ethanol extraction is recovery of that solvent from the biomass. Even though many ethanol extraction equipment companies provide centrifuges and or presses to eliminate the amount of ethanol left over in the biomass, The best equipment will provide only a 90 to 95% recovery of the ethanol. This 5 to 10% loss in ethanol is a huge cost driver for extracting ethanol.
For example, suppose you wanted to process 1000 lb of hemp. You would need 1000 gallons of ethanol to start out at a cost of $16-33 per gallon for food grade ethanol for a total cost of $16,000 to $33,000. If you recovered 90% of the ethanol the ethanol loss would be $1,600 – $3,300 per 1000 lbs. Furthermore if you process 1000 pounds per day, this would be your daily loss.
In contrast, you will lose the equivalent of about $70 per day for CO2 extractions for the exact same process.
Besides energy and solvent usage, there are many other hidden costs related to extraction with ethanol including solvent reuse costs, insurance cost, increased facilities cost, and testing costs.

What is the highest yield you can expect from hemp extraction?

Industrial Hemp extraction typically has a CBD content of 5 to 15% by weight. The THC content of the Industrial Hemp is required by law to be less than 0.3% by weight in the flower that is sold.

Does raw hemp moisture affect yield?

Yes, moisture content will affect weight yield. For example, if 10% of the hemp To be extracted was water, and that water was removed during CO2 extraction, the denominator would be larger in the yield calculation, thereby giving a smaller yield number. By extension, if the same hemp was extracted but had zero water in the hemp, the overall weight percent yield of the extract would be a greater percent of the weight.

One thing to note is that in ethanol extraction, water that is in the hemp will dissolve into the ethanol. If the ethanol is removed from the CBD oil with a falling film evaporator, some of the water will be Co evaporated with the ethanol, thereby increasing the amount of water in the ethanol for each extraction cycle. Some of the water will stay in the extract and is typically removed in a secondary stirred reactor before wiped film evaporator and distillation.

Do you offer training on hemp processing and hemp extraction?

We Have taught hundreds of customers how to extract CBD oils from hemp and THC oils from cannabis. Our training package typically includes installation of the equipment, standard operating procedures, commissioning of the equipment in the facility, and training of operators on the procedures that are provided.

We also offer advanced training and quality management system implementation services for those companies who wish to achieve GMP certification.This training dresses all aspects of the quality management system, laboratory information management, batch record system, and Manufacturing execution.

What kind of employees do you need for hemp processing or hemp extraction?

There are basically four different employees that you need to have in order to run a hemp processing or hemp extraction facility. These are as follows:

  1. assurance
  2. Shift manager
  3. Operators
  4. Optionally analytical operators.

If your goal is to produce a quality product that complies with GMP requirements, you are going to need to have staff that can help you comply with those requirements.That typically means you need to have a quality assurance manager that is aware of the requirements And can Implement those requirements in your facility.

It is also necessary that you have a shift manager. This is someone who is organized and can schedule operators at each station and track the production output. This person will also ensure that operator training has occurred, ensure that yields are met, and also manage the workforce. They are also responsible for producing products that can form with the quality requirements of the end product.

Operators typically execute on the production plan by following standard operating procedures. They are typically trained on how to use the equipment and how to move materials in and out of the process. It is their job to record the data for the quality management system. The Operators typically will be successful if they are Hands-On and are able to follow instructions. It is also a big Advantage if the operator can conduct basic maintenance on the equipment. This requires someone who is Hands-On and has the physical strength to do simple maintenance tasks. This is important for the proper running in the efficiency of a hemp processing facility.

Last but not least, analytical operators or quality control technicians are important for providing yield and in-process testing to the manufacturing facility. They will work with quality assurance directly to ensure that incoming raw hemp biomass conforms to purchasing specifications and to Quality specifications. Quality control technicians are typically chemists and have a laboratory background.

Get in touch with our team to request a quote, learn more about our training or get help with your business plan

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