Cannabis concentrates are a must-have product offering for brands looking to reach a growing cannabis consumer base. Concentrated cannabis compounds can be used to make a wide range of medical and recreational products such as topical ointments, edibles, capsules, transdermal patches, suppositories, and small-batch extracts. While THC concentrate products currently dominate the adult-use market, hemp-derived CBD concentrates are tapping into the trending and lucrative health and wellness segment.
As the cannabis concentrate market balloons to an estimated $8 billion in sales by 2022, business-savvy and licensed marijuana producers are making the measured investment in a professional closed-loop extraction system. Cannabis extraction equipment can increase profits and reduce processing costs associated with trimming and curing flower for many wholesalers. Concentrates command a higher price per item compared to flower (buds) and include a range of products such as odorless distillate oil for edibles or flavorful terp sauce for those with a more discerning palate.
Cannabis concentrate popularity may slowly dwarf flower sales with estimates that see extracts reaching over $13.78 billion in revenue by 2026. High-quality concentrates such as distillates and high-terpene full-spectrum extracts (HTFSE) can be used to make everything from vape cartridges to edibles to topicals for a consumer base starving for product variety. Solvent-based extraction methods are typically used to produce higher, safer, and purer yields than amateur and dangerous open-blasting techniques.
Hydrocarbons such as butane and propane are the solvent of choice for many licensed manufacturers when making butane hash oil (BHO) concentrates. Butane is non-polar and has a relatively low boiling point (31.1ºF), which is particularly helpful when preserving terpenes with lower boiling points than cannabinoids. Besides the solvent solution used, manufacturers must consider multiple factors to determine how much material their equipment will be able to process in a shift.
Butane stands apart from other popular extraction solvents such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethanol in its efficacy at separating cannabis and hemp's full chemical profile of therapeutic cannabinoids and terpenes.
The world of cannabis oil extraction is riddled with bad or outdated information. Most of the negative press BHO extraction receives actually serves the agendas of competing groups rather than as viable health or safety warnings. The CO2 industry's path to popularity, in particular, was paved by sensationalized stories of home explosions from open loop butane extraction, and misinformed claims of impurities in the end product.
What Is Butane?
Butane is a light hydrocarbon belonging to the same molecular family consisting of ethane, propane, and methane. Butane is produced from crude oils derived from decaying organic matter buried deep underground. Fractional distillation purifies the crude oil and compresses the butane into an odorless and flammable liquid. Professional extraction companies use instrument-grade butane for its purity and low boiling point allowing a more complete cannabis extraction compared to other solvents such as carbon dioxide or ethanol.
What Is the History of BHO?
Cannabis concentrates have a long history as ancient medicinal substances with the development of hash, or concentrated cannabis resin. The origins of today’s BHO concentrates can be traced back to D. Gold’s 1971 book titled “Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking,” which described a solvent-based process used to make concentrates.
BHO, also known as butane hash oil extraction, or hydrocarbon extraction, is the preferred extraction method for large-scale producers due to its scalability and versatility.