Since the legalization of CBD, the market has been booming. There are many small- and large-scale manufacturers in the market. Most CBD producers may start making products by procuring CBD isolate or distillate. However, as their business expands, many would like to begin in-house CBD extraction.

The three most commonly used methods for CBD extraction are using ethanol, hydrocarbons, or CO2. Each of these methods has its pros and cons. Among these, hydrocarbons and CO2 are gases, whereas ethanol is a liquid. Gases are generally compressed to create a supercritical mass. It is a condition when gas is somewhere between the liquid and a gaseous state. In this state, it has very low surface tension and is an excellent solvent. Thus, this supercritical mass can readily penetrate cannabis cells and extract various compounds.

Comparing Hydrocarbon Extraction against CO2 Extraction

Handling gases is a complex art and science. Most organizations would buy a closed-loop machine produced by well-known companies. These machines either use hydrocarbons or CO2. Additionally, some equipment would allow the use of ethanol along with supercritical gases.

The major difference between hydrocarbons and CO2 is that hydrocarbons are highly flammable or even explosive. It means that there are strict regulatory needs for operating equipment using hydrocarbon extraction methods. On the other hand, CO2 is much safer.

When it comes to the quality of the end product, it does depend on the solvents, but not only. It also depends on the expertise of the organization. For example, by altering the pressure, temperature and using liquid solvents like ethanol, one may get different products. Moreover, lots would also depend on post-processing.

What is Hydrocarbon Extraction?

It is a method that uses either propane or butane as a solvent. These gases are cheaply available, as they have many industrial uses. In addition, as a supercritical mass, they form an excellent solvent, helping extract a broad range of phytocompounds from cannabis.

Volatile gases like Butane and Propane are highly flammable, which can lead to dangerous explosions.

Many often loved them due to their low-cost and excellent ability to extract broad-spectrum cannabis extract. However, there are some issues in using these gases. They are highly flammable and explosive. It means that every country has some stringent regulations regarding its industrial use. It will include training of the personnel, specific requirements for the infrastructure. The use of hydrocarbon machines would generally require building a special room in many countries that is explosion-proof and has a specific type of ventilation.

Although, running the hydrocarbon machines is not expensive. However, due to other costs like those in personnel and infrastructure, it may ultimately become a costly business. Further, costs are also involved in various inspections, getting licenses, regulatory approvals.

Other hydrocarbon extraction side effects could be a greater number of impurities in the end product.

What is CO2 Extraction?

As the name says, it uses CO2 instead of flammable hydrocarbons. Therefore, it is among the safest gasses to handle. Not only that, CO2 is non-toxic for the human body in small amounts. This means that even if some leakage occurs, it would not be that dangerous. Carbon dioxide may only cause suffocation at very high concentrations, but that is rare.

It is pretty commonly used for CBD extraction. It is often the method of choice for companies starting with extraction. However, it produces a very crude extract that requires further processing through winterization, filtration, etc., which may ultimately add up to the costs.

Since CO2 is safe for human consumption, it is widely used in the food and beverage industry.

CO2 is good for extracting CBD but not that good for other cannabinoids and terpenes. However, that limitation can be overcome. For example, some machines may run the same extract through multiple cycles to extract various phytocompounds. Further, adding ethanol to these machines may help extract terpenes. However, this does slow down the extraction process.

What is the Difference between BHO and CO2 extraction?

Butane hash oil (BHO) uses butane for extraction, whereas CO2 uses carbon dioxide. These are both gases, and they are compressed to create supercritical mass. In the supercritical stage, these are excellent solvents. Generally, butane is regarded as a slightly superior solvent due to its ability to penetrate natural extracts better. However, it has its downside, as it is a highly combustible gas.

Many in the industry prefer BHO over CO2 due to the lower costs of such a method. Using butane is also a faster way of extraction. The extraction cycle with CO2 is longer, which may considerably add up to the costs.

It is worth noticing that in most closed-loop machines, most of these gases are recycled. Nonetheless, about 5% of gases do escape during each cycle. Butane is harmful to the environment compared to CO2.

Hydrocarbon vs CO2: Which Provides the Best Product?

It would be pretty complex to say which methods produce the best product. Each of these ways produces a different kind of product. Hydrocarbons generally produce a superior product because it contains the most vital phytocompounds, like various cannabinoids, terpenes, and much more. Further, products created using hydrocarbons require less post-processing, making it an efficient method for industrial use.

Extracting in separated fractions – the beauty of CO2

Extracting with CO2, on the other hand, requires greater post-processing. Therefore, it is more challenging to get broad-spectrum extract with CO2. However, it is possible with the right kind of expertise and equipment. Moreover, using ethanol along with CO2 is a common practice to get the broad-spectrum extract.

It is true that hydrocarbons may readily produce a better end product. However, those are also more likely to introduce toxic impurities. Further, some residual solvents may also remain in the product. Hydrocarbons are harmful to the human body, even in traces. Thus, if in CO2 extract, extensive post-processing is needed to get pure product. In the case of hydrocarbons, the challenge remains in removing the traces of solvents.

It would be correct to say that both these methods may produce an excellent product. However, it would lot depend on the expertise of the organization.

How Essentia Pura Extract Hemp, Medicinal Plants & More

Essential Pura mainly produces CBD isolate and CBD distillate. It prefers using the supercritical CO2 method of extraction. It may be a slow and lengthy process, but then the company has the expertise in it. Moreover, it produces some excellent CO2 extraction machines.

Essential Pura has experience in creating a pharma-grade pure extract. Thus, it understands how vital is it to ensure that CBD isolate or distillate is free from impurities and solvents.


We believe CO2 extraction is the technology that should be used when maximizing the purity and safety profile of a product. If you would like to give our CO2 extracted products a try, head over to our contact page.