You, like many of Trusteel’s clients, are planning to extract oil from cannabis. For that process to be efficient, solvent recovery is an important, yet commonly overlooked step. We have seen time and time again how this cuts into the bottom line of companies ultimately limiting their ability to compete.
Unfortunately, most processors don’t realize how much money is being thrown out the window! In this article, I will talk about this inefficiency, how to look for it and how to fix it. TruSteel personally believes that no manufacturer or processor should have to suffer inefficient processes.
All cannabis processing facilities utilize a solvent, such as Ethanol/Alcohol, CO2, Butane, Propane, or even Water. This solvent is the key to extracting cannabinoids from biomass, and in most cases, is an expensive consumable in the process. Solvent Recovery is therefore critical to reducing your consumable and overhead cost; not to mention the reduction of time, material, and energy needed to make and deliver that solvent to your doorstep.
From the hundreds of clients we’ve worked with, the two major points that stand out in all cannabis processing facilities that dictate their ability to reclaim expensive solvents are the extraction process and the solvent recovery process.
The Extraction Process:
Simple reactors or vessels used to soak biomass in solvent are inefficient and leave behind a lot of solvents (20-60%) as well as un-extracted cannabinoids. This type of process is inexpensive upfront but quickly eats away at your bottom line and in some cases erodes the top line as well.
Basket centrifuges can be extremely efficient in extracting cannabinoids and reclaiming solvent from biomass when operated under specific parameters. The centrifugal force pulls the solvent and cannabinoids away from the biomass, in some cases up to 98%. TruSteel can help you choose the most appropriate centrifuge for your operation.
The Solvent Recovery Process:
At one point, the most commonly used solvent recovery equipment in the cannabis processing industry was a Rotary Evaporator. RotoVaps are inexpensive, relatively quick to deliver, and widely used as benchtop laboratory equipment. Their batch style, manual, and low-volume process makes them a great laboratory option for R&D, but a poor commercial or industrial option when an automated and continuous process is more commonly deployed for processing higher volumes than 50 lbs a day.
Scaling up to a faster and continuous solvent recovery process is where many processors start hemorrhaging money. Why? Because most are only recovering 80-90% of their solvent. This may not seem like a big deal, but 10% of your daily ethanol for a facility processing 1,000 lbs/day could cost you $1,200 – $2,500 every single day. Adding up very quickly to $50,000 or more a month! Is this money that you can afford to lose? Some manufacturers may think so and even claim that your material is easier to work with when it has more solvent left in it. This is only an excuse and an attempt at finding a silver lining when using inefficient equipment. A simple way to tell if this is happening to you is by looking at the viscosity of the crude oil coming out of your evaporator. The more liquid and soupy the material is; likely the more solvent is left behind in your crude oil. You could also experience a bottleneck at your Solvent Recovery, Decarboxylation, and Distillation stages because of this and be unable to process the amount you initially planned for.
Our goal is to help you avoid this. As the price for products rises and falls, companies with inefficient processes are going to struggle through the rough times while the companies that have the ability to keep processing costs low will be the ones taking market share. Process efficiencies allow for additional margins and increased returns.
You might ask, “How can I recover that last 10-20% of solvent?”. There are at least two options available: 1) running a second pass through the equipment, or 2) using rotary evaporators to finish the job. In both cases, this causes a bottleneck in your process, requiring more time, more equipment, and more labor to get the job done than you originally expected. That 80 gals/hr falling film evaporator purchased quickly turns into a 40-50 gal/hr unit in the lab because processors are dealing with poor efficiency when it comes to solvent recovery.
This is where TruSteel can help you.
Ideally, your crude oil from an evaporator like our AutoVap should have a low residual solvent level and be ready for the next process of devolatilization and decarboxylation in our Decarboxylation Reactor. TruSteel’s proprietary design within the AutoVap Series can recover up to 99.5% of the incoming solvent stream on the first pass. This is over 10% higher than many alternatives and saves our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Another benefit is that by reducing the time heat is applied to your extracted cannabinoids, the end product is of higher quality. Some of our customers have been able to command a higher price for this enhanced output.
When TruSteel talks about throughput, we TRULY mean what we advertise. This is why TruSteel offers a Performance Guarantee to ensure satisfaction to our clients and the performance of our equipment. After all, you’re putting your name on the line for your company, your customers, your product, and your investors; why shouldn’t we?