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  • by Nicola Boulton September 01, 2022 5 min read

    Is CO2 Extraction Safe

    The most secure and clean method for obtaining cannabis oil for products is supercritical CO2 extraction. In contrast to petroleum hydrocarbons like butane and propane, which are more controversial, the FDA has deemed CO2 safe for industrial extractions. This article explains whether CO2 is a safe extraction method.

    This technique is not new in the production of cannabis concentrates, but it is in the botanical extraction sector. CO2 is swiftly becoming one of the most popular extraction methods for cannabis. Subcritical and supercritical fluids with varying pressures and temperatures may be used in CO2 extraction. Although the cause of this paradigm change is undoubtedly in question, the technology's adaptability and enhanced sustainability and safety are compelling signs. There is a growing trend among retailers to label their concentrates according to the extraction process, indicating whether or not solvents were employed and to what extent.

    What Is CO2 Extraction

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas used to extract phytochemicals from plants, including flavonoids, terpenes, and cannabinoids. CO2 acts as a solvent under particular conditions, such as high temperatures and pressures. Despite its high cost, it is a popular extraction technique because of its efficacy, safety, and environmental friendliness. Cannabis extracts are a vital part of this expanding sector, which has grown swiftly due to its growing popularity. Because it yields a pure, clean, and safe product, supercritical CO2 extraction is frequently employed to separate various components from plants. It is a technique to extract extracts and other compounds by employing super- or sub-critical gases.

    How Do You Make CO2 Extractions of Cannabis

    Zheljazkov & Maggi (2021) explained that CBD (Cannabidiol) is a naturally occurring chemical in hemp and cannabis plants. Compared to other plants, hemp and cannabis contain more CBD. Hemp is a wonderful source of CBD because it has a high concentration of cannabinoids. Dried plants are gathered after a four-month growing period, at which point they are ready for use. Carbon dioxide (CO2) does not mix well with water. It separates from the extract and decreases your yield. Plants are dried by either hanging them or placing them in an oven. Freeze dryers are popular among people who live in humid climates. The plant is then processed into a coffee-ground-like consistency when completely dried. As soon as this is done, it goes into a CO2 extraction system. After sealing the vessel, the user enters the desired operating settings (time and pressure). Apeks Due to the complete automation of supercritical systems, when the operator enters the parameters, the system will ask them to double-check a few items before proceeding. As a result, the system's pressure and temperature rise to the desired levels. During the extraction process, CO2 is released into the atmosphere. The CO2 turns into a liquid under pressure, making it an excellent solvent. Before it enters the separation chamber and is forced through an opening, depressurized, and turned back into a gas, it collects the oil from the plant material. Flowing oil collects in a cup as it is removed from the gas stream. Until the CO2 reaches the set time, it runs through the material continuously. Extracting oil may necessitate pauses in the extraction process, depending on the conditions of the operation.

    Positive Aspects of CO2 Extraction


    The substance is solvent-free after CO2 extraction. After the extraction is finished, nothing is left behind since the CO2 bubbles away, leaving no remnant in the finished product.


    CO2 is easily accessible and used extensively in various sectors. Ninety-five percent of the CO2 used in each extraction is recirculated and later recovered using supercritical CO2 extraction systems.

    No Additional Distillation

    Or purging is necessary because CO2 has a relatively low boiling point and tends to be a gas when left at ambient temperature.


    CO2 extraction can be done at plant-native temperatures, limiting the plant's thermal deterioration and harvested oil.

    Is CO2 Extraction Safe

    Morais et al. (2015) stated that the solvent CO2 is neither explosive nor volatile. In actuality, CO2 is what fire extinguishers are made of. An operator needs a carbon dioxide sensor in case of a leak. However, unlike other extraction techniques, there is no requirement for additional protective gear in a CO2 laboratory.

    Cost of a CO2 Extractor

    Most supercritical costs are between $89,500 and over $500,000. The ROI occurs within a few months when operated under ideal conditions. The ROI depends on the industry you enter because concentrated and wholesale oil costs vary widely between states. Don't focus solely on the equipment cost, though; there are several additional necessary pieces of equipment or facility needs.

    Methods and Techniques for Extraction

    • Andre et al. (2016) explained that terpenes found in cannabis plants are the molecules responsible for the plant's aroma and flavor. Despite being in high demand, they are also rather delicate, and some extraction techniques will cause them to burn off or be destroyed.
    • Hydrocarbons are a group of solvent gases that includes butane and propane. Given its strong flammability, this solvent calls for specialized safety gear.
    • Carbon dioxide serves as the system's solvent in Apeks Supercritical systems. It is a potent solvent employed in numerous processes, including cannabis extraction and dry cleaning.
    • Extracting essential oils from the cannabis plant involves employing a solvent.

    Is CO2 Extraction Better Than Butane

    The final output determines everything. That could include several cannabis-related goods, such as tinctures, dabs, balms, and isolates. Ubeed et al. (2022) explained that many cannabis-derived compounds could be extracted using CO2. However, some, like live resin, require butane for their production. Certain solvents, like ethanol, degrade terpenes when used to extract marijuana. Terpene extraction with CO2 systems is extremely efficient since there is no heat degradation.


    While not always economical, SFE with CO2 has shown to be one of the most adaptable and secure ways to make cannabis concentrates. CO2-based items are now found in almost every major sector, from food and beverages to pre-filled vaporizers to concentrates and isolates. The application of this technology has considerably helped the field of cannabis extraction, and there is no question that its benefits to the cannabis industry will favor the development of CO2 extraction technology in the future.


    Andre, C. M., Hausman, J. F., & Guerriero, G. (2016). Cannabis sativa: the plant of the thousand and one molecules. Frontiers in plant science, 7, 19.

    Morais, A. R., da Costa Lopes, A. M., & Bogel-Łukasik, R. (2015). Carbon dioxide in biomass processing: contributions to the green biorefinery concept. Chemical reviews, 115(1), 3-27.

    Ubeed, H. M. S. A., Bhuyan, D. J., Alsherbiny, M. A., Basu, A., & Vuong, Q. V. (2022). A Comprehensive Review on the Techniques for Extraction of Bioactive Compounds from Medicinal Cannabis. Molecules, 27(3).

    Zheljazkov, V. D., & Maggi, F. (2021). Valorization of CBD-hemp through distillation to provide essential oil and improved cannabinoid profile. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1-11.

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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