Explanation of Cannabis Crude Oil

Cannabis crude oil is what many people commonly refer to as the oil produced during the extraction process, as additional steps need to be taken to refine the product. However, some extraction methods, such as hydrocarbon extraction using butane or propane, have largely rendered the term irrelevant due to the high degree of refinement of the entire extraction process itself, thus producing a "crude oil" that is actually ready for sale.

The hydrocarbon extraction (also known as BHO extraction) process has the unique ability to extract the most popular compounds and eliminate the bad-tasting ones, resulting in a highly refined "crude oil" that can be made into artisan-made extracts such as minced, waxed, live resins, sauces, buds, crumbs, isolates, etc. Unlike other extraction methods, hydrocarbon extraction can bypass multiple refining processes to produce higher and more refined extracts.

What is crude oil?
The term crude oil relates to the form in its natural or raw state, without any additional processing or refining. Crude oil products appear in different forms in different industries, but perhaps the best analogy is the petrochemical industry. Crude oil obtained from offshore oil rigs needs to be refined into usable products such as gasoline, petroleum jelly and many forms of fuel.

BHO Crude Oil

Petroleum refineries are responsible for converting the dark brown and generally useless crude oil obtained from pipelines into its more practical consumer product fraction. In the refining process, the underlying compound structure is separated and purified through various distillation methods. The oil obtained from the earth can then be sold without additional refining, or refined into smaller molecules to create a wider range of products.

Similarly, in the cannabis extraction process, the basic resin oil is extracted from cannabis or cannabis plant matter (such as buds, leaves, stems and seeds) and refined into a more usable form.

The solvent that makes the difference
The most common solvents used in the cannabis extraction process include carbon dioxide (CO2), ethanol, and butane/propane. Traditional "crude" oils extracted using CO2 or ethanol require further post-treatment before they can be injected into the product or ingested, hence the term "crude".

Highly refined "crude" oils made with lighter hydrocarbons such as butane or propane reduce undesirable substances and contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes and other essential compounds. This oil contains higher levels of plant aromatic terpenoids and flavonoids, as well as other essential compounds, and requires no further refinement. It can be added to whole flowers or joints, used in vape boxes, and topicals for topical relief.

Keep in mind that cannabis resin, also known as trichomes, primarily resides on the entire flower bud, but small amounts can be found in the stems and leaves. The seeds can also contain some essential oil, but not any cannabinoids.

The crude oil is basically cannabis resin (with a different chemical composition) isolated from the plant. Trichome congeners can be obtained in many different ways. Ultimately, however, manufacturers want an effective and pure product, while reducing costs and increasing the output of the production process.BHO extraction is the right solution.
How is the crude oil made?
The differences in "crude oil" quality, color and purity really become apparent when we look at the different methods of extracting cannabis resin from the plant and the many ways to refine it into a distillate, isolate or full spectrum product depending on the target product.

Cannabis oil can be extracted using a variety of solvent-based or solvent-free extraction methods, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most popular solvent-based methods use ethanol, carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrocarbons (propane and butane) as solvents to strip the plant from its resinous oil.

Solvent-based methods utilize closed-loop equipment in a laboratory-grade environment to recover solvents while also minimizing the risk of spills and avoiding harm to technicians. Ventilation and gas detection systems ensure that everyone remains safe and that there are no hiccups in the process. However, closed-loop equipment makes a difference in terms of speed and quality.

Solvent-free methods such as dry sieving or pressing raw or frozen cannabis are used to avoid the introduction of solvents into the cannabis. The solvent-free method uses agitation, heat and pressure to break the trichome bulbs off the surface of the plant.

Mesh sieves of various sizes are used to separate the trichomes and make dried kief, which can later be made into hashish plates or balls for smoking. Commercial rosin presses can be used to apply heat and pressure to the cannabis material and extrude its viscous and sticky guts without the use of closed-loop equipment, however the yield is usually too low for commercial production.

For solvent-free methods, extraction companies must still perform a solvent-based extraction process to produce concentrated oil and may need to remove undesirable plant matter from the mixture.

Each type of extraction process produces a different type of cannabis oil with varying purity. Carbon dioxide and ethanol are effective solvents used to remove cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant, but can also inadvertently bring in plant waxes, lipids and chlorophyll during the process, which requires additional post-treatment time and cost to remove.

However, when using hydrocarbon closed-loop equipment with butane and propane, the resulting cannabis oil is produced with less wax, lipids and chlorophyll, but more total cannabinoids and terpenes, compared to CO2 or ethanol extraction.

How is BHO extraction used to produce crude oil?
The non-polar characteristics and lower boiling points of butane and propane make them ideal solvents for extracting a wider range of compounds, including those temperature-sensitive terpenoids, which can evaporate at high temperatures. Compounds such as terpenoids and flavonoids are of high therapeutic value, but are often degraded in the process.

Decarboxylation, or the process of applying heat to compounds to activate them, can occur naturally or during the oven drying process. Light terpene oils can easily boil over if the manufacturer is not careful. The use of mixed hydrocarbon solvents can produce more complex terpenes with a light color.

Butane hash oil (BHO) extraction or hydrocarbon extraction can yield broad or full-spectrum products rich in cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. For medicinal users, consuming the entire original compound of a strain can amplify the health benefits due to the entourage effect that occurs in the body of the compound.

Obtaining a full-spectrum concentrate from an extracted oil may be easy or nearly impossible, depending on the solvent used. Butane is capable of dissolving more desirable compounds, leaving behind chlorophyll and irritant compounds.

While BHO extraction can produce this full spectrum product for a more complex and beneficial experience, it can equally be created as a terpene and flavonoid free distilled oil for vape boxes, edibles and topicals.

Post-Processing and Refining
After removing the cannabis "crude oil" from the cannabis or hemp plant material, a number of filtration methods are used to remove solvents and unwanted chlorophyll, fats and waxes, especially in the case of CO2 and ethanol-derived crude oils. Post-process distillation and filtration can help further purify the oil.

For example, in the case of vape pencils, concentrate manufacturers can completely distill the oil to filter out flavonoids and phytochromes, yielding a clear and inhalable extract.

However, for edible oils, complete distillation may not be necessary. Some phytochromes and flavonoids may be present in the edible without damaging the integrity of the product. Reduced refining means that manufacturers can save time and money in processing extracts.

Post-treatment technologies have become so advanced and precise that they can filter out any contaminants that may be extruded from the crude oil due to plant or residual contamination. For example, some industrial crude oils may be contaminated, but later refined. Advanced filtration techniques can remove contaminants such as fungal agents and residual solvents.

Cannabis and hemp extraction methods that use carbon dioxide may require winterization, which involves dissolving the extract in ethanol to separate fats, waxes and flavonoids. The sub-zero temperatures help to coagulate and solidify the fat on the top player for further filtration using various screens or funnels.

When winterization is complete, residual ethanol must be removed from the extract. Many manufacturers use rotary evaporators to heat the mixture under the vacuum of a vacuum pump. The ethanol used in the winterization process evaporates and is contained in the condenser. What is the result? The extract contains no ethanol.

Some manufacturers may use equipment with in-line dewaxing columns to bypass or reduce the need for winterization. In-line dewaxing utilizes sub-zero temperatures, just like winterization, but requires only a single solvent, unlike winterization which requires an initial solvent and ethanol for the winterization process.

In-line dewaxing systems utilize the surface area created by baffles, beads or other media to trap unwanted compounds while allowing the extraction solution to pass through.

Hydrocarbon extraction for better crude oil.
With hydrocarbon extraction, manufacturers can forego the bulky overwintering freezers needed for refining. You also don't need an expensive rotary evaporator or fractionation equipment. All you need is a compatible vacuum oven to remove residual solvents and trace amounts of chlorophyll, waxes and fats.

The versatility of hydrocarbon extraction makes it an ideal solvent and production method for almost any manufacturer. Hydrocarbon extractors can distill large amounts of trimmings or low quality buds to get out as much cannabinoid as possible. We know it won't be as aromatic as the oil extracted from the buds, but manufacturers can still use hydrocarbon extraction for every part of the plant.

Further processing. Vaporization
For those who wish to go beyond the high purity extract of hydrocarbon extraction, BHO oil can be further refined into a distillate. Distillation can produce a range of CBD and THC cannabinoids that are over 95% pure. Distillation can also produce other minor cannabinoids such as THCV and Delta-8. distillation allows manufacturers to use specific temperatures to cook off some compounds while leaving desired compounds such as CBD alone for CBD oil.

Distillation allows manufacturers to produce a predictable and consistent product that has the same taste, smell and feel every time.Hydrocarbon's cannabis oil can be further made into cannabinoid isolates of THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA and more psychoactive compounds.

Carbon dioxide and ethanol extraction is fine for making distillate oils and distillates such as THC or CBD isolates, but can end up costing the manufacturer more than other refining methods. Hydrocarbon extraction can produce the following premium concentrates without the high costs of other methods

Live resins
THC or CBD foreign matter
Vape Oil
Automated Hydrocarbon Extraction
Luna Technologies' IO Extractor is a leading provider of automated hydrocarbon extraction equipment for the cannabis and hemp industry. Our automated extraction solutions ensure that manufacturers continue to pump large volumes of light-colored translucent oils for a variety of cannabis and hemp products.

On-site commissioning and equipment training helps manufacturers get up and running as quickly as possible. Hydrocarbon extraction with IO extractors can harness the power of butane and propane to process up to 18 pounds of dry biomass or 25 pounds of frozen biomass per hour to produce premium THC and CBD products. Mass production of high quality hemp and cannabis extracts has never been easier.

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